my office loves expensive, physically demanding team-building activities

A reader writes:

For the past five years, I have been employed at a small consulting firm (~20 employees). My CEO and coworkers are all genuinely smart, kind, and thoughtful people who want to do good, and I have loved it here for the most part — projects are interesting and impactful, generous compensation and benefits, good work-life balance, etc. However, I’ve come to realize that the sector I work in tends to be staffed by mostly well-meaning, wealthy, white people, my workplace included.

Something that has always annoyed me is that our quarterly team-building days are centered around expensive and physically demanding activities like skiing, sailing, mountaineering, and ice climbing (we are based in the Pacific Northwest — and yes, these team-building sessions are still happening during Covid since they take place outside). We have four team-building days a year, and all four of them are like this. The CEO of my company organizes the tedious logistics for them personally (carpool assignments, lunch orders, lessons and rental equipment) because he loves planning them so much.

I am the only non-white staff member and the only one from a poor background — it’s probably no surprise that I have zero experience undertaking any of these activities. While I have grudgingly attended a few “snow days” over the years (mostly hanging out alone in the lodge while everyone else whizzed down double black diamonds in Moncler ski jackets), I usually skip them and opt to work my regular shift instead, which is company policy if you don’t attend.

Having recently returned from maternity leave, my annoyance at these team outings has intensified lately. We have another snow day coming up in a few weeks, and the additional factors of having to nurse my baby every 2-3 hours, plus my reluctance to gather in a big group (even outside and socially distanced) during a global pandemic, means I will miss another day in the mountains with my coworkers. I feel extra resentful for being expected to put in a regular eight-hour day while everyone else gets the day off to go skiing.

Do you think I should speak up about the elitist and exclusionary aspects of these team-building activities, even though I am literally the only person on staff who feels this way? If so, do you have any advice on how I can do this tactfully, without sounding like a killjoy?

I take it that no one at your firm has ever had physical restrictions that would make these activities uncomfortable or impossible for them? Or would they just be expected to work in the office while everyone else skis, sails, hikes, and ice climbs?

I mean, I suppose it’s good that your office at least lets people opt out even without a medical reason — there are some offices that don’t — but you’re absolutely right that this is exclusionary. If the point is truly team-building (as opposed to just letting the CEO plan a ski day because he loves to plan ski days), then it makes no sense whatsoever to continually choose activities that exclude some people. It would be one thing if they did one activity like this a year, and something else for the other three — but all four are like this every year? Nah, that’s a problem.

And to be clear, it’s very hard — impossible, really — to pick team-building/social activities that everyone will like. But you have four of these days a year. They can’t mix it up some of the time?

As for whether to speak up … I’d love to just say yes, both on principle and because a good workplace would want to hear this kind of input. But in reality, it depends on your sense of how your CEO and other would react, and how much capital you think you’d need to spend. Some managers would be mortified to hear how you’ve been feeling and would be grateful you told them. Others … would not be.

But ideally, you’d be to explain that you aren’t able to participate in the activities they’ve been choosing and ask that at least some of these events be focused around something more inclusive. You could say something like, “As we’re thinking about next quarter’s event, would you be open to changing up what we do? I’d really like to be able to participate, but skiing, sailing, mountaineering, and ice climbing aren’t options for me. Would you be open to X or Y instead?” If that’s shot down, then you’d explain the impact of that — “When our team-building events are always things I can’t participate in, it feels like the opposite of team-building to me. Since we do four a year, can we make room for some of them to be more inclusive activities?”

Also, any chance that you’re not the only one on staff who’d welcome a change? Most offices have people who go along with this kind of thing because they don’t want to make waves, but who secretly aren’t thrilled with it. It might be worth trying to feel out some coworkers on it. And even if it turns out that everyone truly loves these quarterly Feats of Expensive Athleticism, they still might be willing to support changing it up, simply from hearing how you feel.

{ 598 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A preemptive request: Please keep comments focused on advice to the letter-writer, not about how much you personally would or wouldn’t like these activities. I’ve removed some long threads doing the latter. Thank you.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Is the CEO the owner? If not, do the owners know that everybody is getting all-expenses paid vacations four days out of the year? Is this really a wise way to spend the corporation’s money?

    1. Stumped*

      I think the physical aspect of these activities is exclusionary but I don’t think the the focus should be on money spent. I don’t think any CEO or business owner would appreciate being told how to spend money it was their responsibility to allocate just like an employee wouldn’t want scrutiny on their own purchases.

    2. Save the Hellbender*

      I don’t see from the letter that these are all-expenses paid. The LW’s main issue with the activities is that they’re exclusionary of those who don’t have an outdoors/adventure background (which tends to be linked to racial and economic privilege) but she also mentions that the activities are expensive, and she didn’t say the company was shelling out for 25 ski passes and rental equipment.

    3. OP*

      Yes, he is the founder and owner of the company. We’re based in the PNW, so these activities are a 1-hr (or less) – they are paid work days, not vacation days. I don’t think the actual expenses to the company are that high (gas, food, lift tickets). Everyone else does these activities in their free time, so they already have the experience and gear.

      1. Lauren*

        OP, are you expected to bring your own gear to these things or will they pay for it? Has anyone noticed that you don’t have the gear?

        1. 'Tis Me*

          It sounds like everybody else there already has the gear so it perhaps wouldn’t occur to them that other people could work there and need to rent it. Or would benefit from lessons etc… (Can people rent the stuff by the hour? Or is it one of those things where by the time you got fitted it would be time to go?)

        2. Hil*

          I was wondering this too, but regardless of if they pay to rent skis, I guarantee they’re note offering to buy OP all the stuff you need: the right kind of jacket and base layers, snow pants, ski gloves, etc. Plus if everyone else is on black diamonds, its not like you can really go with them. You’re going to wind up skiing alone. Such team building!

          1. Lauren*

            Just to clarify, when I say gear, I mean everything you need.

            When I was a teenager, a friend of my mom’s took my skiing while we were all on a trip to Lake Tahoe.

            She loaned me everything I needed, in addition to renting skis and paying for a lesson for me. It was a lot of stuff I wasn’t expecting, and she knew I wouldn’t have any of it.

            So, you’d think these coworkers might at least notice.

            1. Hil*

              Oh, funny! I’ve never seen pant or jacket rentals before. I did go to a really bougie college where I had to explain multiple times to the same people that I REALLY just didn’t own a ski jacket/pants/gloves, not even an old one, not even ugly ones. Its so weird to be the only person renting things either way.

              1. Lauren*

                The friend loaned my extras of her jackets and pants, not that they were rent.

                But yeah, it can be weird talking to wealthy people that assume you just have all this expensive crap. They really don’t get it, and look at you like you’ve told them you only eat things that are red.

              2. ArtsNerd*

                I got roped into being a player in some soccer game in college so my dorm wouldn’t have to forfeit for lack of people and I kept telling the woman trying to recruit me that I had no appropriate clothes. “Oh it’s ok just wear whatever you have!”

                You should have seen her face when I showed up in docs and pajamas, screaming “NO ONE PASS ME THE BALL.”

          2. Lorac*

            You don’t really need special gear, especially as a beginner. If LW is already in the PNW, they should already have warm and waterproof clothes they can use. I’ve gone in just layers of sweaters/sweatpants with leggings and a normal rain jacket/pants thrown over everything. The only thing you really need to rent would be a helmet and skis, which usually get packaged as a day pass.

            But yes, skiing alone would suck.

            1. Quill*

              Mild disagreement here on “should already have the supplies.”

              If OP lives in the city it’s very possible that their standard winter jacket is not suitable for “skiing on a mountain” because it’s not cold rated far enough, depending on the day’s weather and OP’s cold tolerance.

              1. Mimi*

                I couldn’t ski in my winter coat; it’s too long, because I use it for walking, or waiting for the bus in sub-freezing temperatures, and my legs get cold otherwise.

                (Not that I could ski in someone else’s winter coat, either, but that’s a separate problem.)

              2. Æthelflæd*

                I’ve lived in the PNW a cumulative of 20+ years. My winter jacket is a pea coat and I own an umbrella. I do not have weatherproof clothing (maybe some shoes?) and would not have suitable clothing to ski in whatsoever.

            2. 1.0*

              Yeah, I don’t know about that – I grew up in Seattle and was skiing from about the time I could stand, but I never wore my waterproof ski pants off the mountain! You CAN go in sweatpants, but I wouldn’t want to spend 6+ hours in icy, wet cotton sweatpants

              1. Lorac*

                I meant regular rain pants over sweatpants or something. I assumed most people have some kind of waterproof pants that they wear over regular pants but maybe not? Just for walking around on rainy days or even digging your car out of snow?

                1. we say Ope here*

                  my hubby grew up poor and, when I met him, did not have snow pants or snow boots IN THE UPPER MIDWEST

                2. AcademiaNut*

                  No, not really. I grew up in that climate, and it doesn’t snow enough to make snow clothing necessary. My typical winter outfit was a medium water resistant jacket, jeans, and running shoes, with light gloves and a hat for colder days.

                  These days I’d wear a Gortex jacket and boots, but the price of Gortex has dropped significantly since I lived in the area – as a university student, it was out of my budget (as was a car, or my own house, so no digging stuff out on the rare times it did snow).

                  Personally, I find waterproof pants too warm when it’s above freezing – I use them when it’s below about -10 and windy, or in the slushy hovering around freezing days in cold climates when getting splashed by the bus while walking to work is a distinct risk.

                3. Librarian1*

                  No, most people don’t have rain pants or waterproof pants. I have a long winter jacket and a longish raincoat and an umbrella and I just deal with the bottoms of my pants getting wet when it rains really hard.

                4. curiousLemur*

                  I live in the pacific northwest and don’t have rain pants. I wear jeans. Then again, where I live, there isn’t much snow.

                5. Flora*

                  I have lived in the wet half of the PNW for decades and do not in fact keep on hand waterproof pants. Or a “rain”coat. Or any of the other things one would need for skiing (which also includes boots, btw). I think I last owned a waterproof article of clothing in…….. 1989? Maybe? Last time I dug my car out of (unusual) snow, I did so in regular sweatpants, and then went inside and changed my pants and socks.

                  Anyway, so what I like and don’t like about your comment is that it kind of proves the point of the problem. Your assumption was WAY LESS than the folks at OP’s employer, and yet it’s STILL full of assumptions that are not well founded! So the employer is probably way way far outside of reasonable, you know?

                6. Anon Today*

                  “Regular rain pants.”

                  I’m from the frozen north, working class/lower middle class town. Every year in the middle school cafeteria there was a winter swap of clothes and equipment people’s kids had outgrown so a near-new pair of hockey skates or a parka didn’t go to waste. And yet, I have no idea what “regular rain pants” are.

                7. Freeatlast*

                  I live in Connecticut where it both rains and snows. I’ve never owned rain pants. And digging my car out of the snow is a job for my spousal unit and so, both of whom wear sweatpants and long underwear when they do so and then throw them into the wash,

                8. Kal*

                  I live in a place where its snowy winter half the year. “Regular rain pants” or even “winter pants” to me are whatever jeans I could buy from Costco that fit me. I did have snow pants as a kid, when it was typically hand-me-downs from other families from church. I did have a ski jacket, but mostly because it was an area cold enough that ski jackets were just your normal jacket type for most people.

                  The one school ski trip I got to go on as a kid (cause my friends families paid for me), I still had to borrow stuff from friends, and that was a ski trip planned with the expectation that almost everyone was going to have to rent equipment and need beginner lessons.

                  My partner grew up in the PNW as a middle class kid and had even less ski appropriate stuff than I did, because they were a city kid. Neither of us have the clothes needed to just up and go skiing or any other winter sport.

            3. Kate 2*

              Yeah, no. When I went on a ski day trip, as a newbie, I fell down a lot. And even living in an extremely cold snowy area I didn’t have “warm waterproof clothing”. I had clothing that was warm, for winter, and waterproof, for spring and fall rains. Snow isn’t really wet, unless you get covered in it and don’t brush off before it melts. When you are falling down in the snow for hours you definitely need both, but for daily life, no.

                1. Dave*

                  They’re just lightweight waterproof pants. Usually for hiking so not as expensive or heavy duty as full ski pants but definitely would work to ski in if its not an extreme storm day

            4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              I’ve never heard of rain pants till now. From reading other comments, I gather I’m not the only one.

              I’ve lived most of my life in the midwest and have plenty of warm clothing, because we have cold winters. But I don’t own a single thing that’s waterproof or otherwise appropriate for skiing. Right now, I’m wondering if rain pants are a partucularly Pacific NW thing, but that’s really neither here nor there, lol.

              At any rate, I believe there are people on this board from a very wide range of locations, which means it’s not safe to assume what kinds of clothing anyone posting here does or does not have.

              1. Mongrel*

                The only people who I can think of, in the UK, who would have a set of waterproof pants are bikers. Not the poseur Sunday Harley crowd but the people who commute or otherwise use bikes for everyday use

              2. ValkyrieAmy*

                I’ve lived in the PNW for 15 years and the only people I know who have rain pants are the super dedicated bike commuters. I do *own* an umbrella, but it has to be raining pretty hard (and I have to be planning on being outside a lot) to grab that. Usually, past year excepted, where I lie, our rain is more of a steady drizzle that lasts for weeks rather than anything soaking. Even when I was a long distance runner who had to run outside for 20+ miles on the weekends, I just wore fleece lined tights and a cap with a bill to keep the damp off my face.

                I don’t own anything that would allow me to be comfortable in the snow, because I don’t winter sport.

        3. Old School PNW Resident*

          Pro tips from someone who grew up in the area:

          1) If you don’t ski a lot, it’s pretty much expected that you’re skiing with secondhand equipment. It is not expensive to outfit yourself from yard sales. My name brand ski pants cost me $10. Going rate is around $5.

          2) You NEED appropriate cold weather gear for the few times in a decade that the PNW freezes over. Again, you’re not going to be using it a lot, so buy the big stuff secondhand and stick it in the back of your closet. Long underwear, wool or performance fiber socks, a wool sweater, ski pants, hat/scarf/mittens, and a parka. When the big freeze hits, you will be one of the few people who’s able to get around outside.

          3) The Mountain (every PNW city has their Mountain) is a big part of PNW culture. If you live in the area, you should become familiar with it.

          Take some time to look into winter sports lessons for when baby is older and you both can enjoy the snow. There are many inexpensive ways to experience PNW winter sports, you just have to look–try checking in with your local city recreation department to start.

          1. Stemmy*

            I live in the PNW, and I love to ski (alpine, backcountry, xc), mountain bike, trail run, backpack, etc etc etc. I have 2 dogs and a subaru, and am the epitome of a ‘standard PNW gal’. But it’s privileged nonsense to suggest everyone that lives here HAS to engage in these activities. Not everyone likes going into the mountains, a lot of folks don’t have the time/money/means/transportation to get out into them and buy the gear (which, hello, ski/bike gear is hella expensive), and it’s really unfair to suggest that if someone lives in the area they HAVE to be familiar with this particular culture.

          2. Anna*

            These things may be true for you. They are not true for everyone, as evidenced by the numerous people, also from PNW, who have never heard of rain pants and don’t like mountains. Just because you like going outside in cold weather doesn’t mean everyone else needs to clutter up their closets with a bunch of gear that you admit they’ll rarely use. No one NEEDS to buy a bunch of stuff, or spend time shopping at yard sales for it, just because you like to have it.

      2. Save the Hellbender*

        Thanks for the clarification! Not realizing that gear for these things is the biggest expense is mind-boggling to me.

      3. JJ*

        Oh man, I would definitely opt out too, but for me it’s the physical danger. Has truly no one been seriously injured yet at one of these things? Are employers liable if someone breaks their leg on their double black diamond work trip? How many potential sick days are hanging in the balance? That seems like a great reason to mix it up beyond all the good ones Allison mentioned. How about some team building at like, the art museum?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Same. I’d have to opt out because, due to the medical conditions I’ve acquired in the past ten years (detached/reattached retina, back injury), these activities would be too risky for me. Potential loss of vision in one eye or debilitating back/sciatic pain from a worsened injury would far outweigh the benefits of Being Seen as a Team Player. And my conditions are relatively mellow, has this company never hired someone with a genuine disability preventing them to do all those activities? What will they do if their next best-qualifying job candidate does have one?

        2. Quill*

          I’m having visions of my last attempt at skiing, which ended with me facedown in a berm while two bunny hill attendants tried to pull me out by the ankles. (I was long term unharmed. I was cold, pissed off, and altitude sick, however.)

          I think it’s time to leave the extreme sports for extracurriculars.

          1. Freeatlast*

            My last attempt at skiing was 43 years ago when I was 23. I was chaperoning askiing trip. It was an icy day on the mountain and after three trips down, I decided to head for the lodge before I fell and hurt myself. Too late. I’d torn the ligament in my left knee. My orthopedist said that if I liked walking, I would never ski again. I didn’t. I’ve subsequently had the other knee replaced and developed an L4-L5 spondylitis in my back. Walking and riding my recumbent stationary bike. That’s the limit of my physicality.

        3. Æthelflæd*

          I used to handle workers’ compensation claims in the PNW. If someone got hurt, they would absolutely certainly be covered by workers’ compensation. It doesn’t matter if they do something stupid or reckless – workers’ comp covers stupidity (just not purposeful injury, but that’s VERY hard to prove, even with video).

          Btw, if someone woke up with a sore back the next day? Yeah, that’s a compensable (accepted) claim. These trips sound like a disaster from a risk management perspective.

      4. PNW*

        UGH. This is such a PNW thing. I have a physical disability that most are not fully aware of but I do walk with a bit of a limp. Anyway, my PNW company does something very similar. The reality is most people in the PNW are very outdoorsy and love hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, biking, etc. I honestly think that because the majority of people that live here are like that they just assume that everyone does. My advice is to mention that they may not realize it, but their team building is problematic for those that are not able to or interested in participating in such physical activities. Yes, they are not forcing participation but if the real reason is team building, it isn’t doing that. It might just be that they call it team building but it really is more of a reward. If that is the case, they should include alternate activities for people who can not or do not want to participate in the more physical activities. You could even provide some recommended alternatives.

        1. Lana Kane*

          As a PNW resident, I cosign this. One of my biggest frustrations here is how inclusivity gets touted so much, but it’s clear that they either don’t know what that word means, or their definition of who is included is vastly different from mine.

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          I agree. Obviously they do enjoy these activities and I draw a line at sneering at people for enjoying and wanting to plan events that are perceived as ”wealthy white person” activities (I do not ski, am white but am not wealthy nor have I ever been!), BUT regardless of the politics, it is very exclusionary and not even a tiny bit ”team building” to keep planning things that one person cannot feasibly do, and then worse, to make them work the day while everyone else gets to do something they clearly love doing on the company’s dime.

          That’s very unfair and thoughtless. As Alison says, if that were 1 event out of 4, okay, well they love it, so good for them, but all 4? Can the CEO not just do his skiing and base jumping in his spare time? There are so many other things that are a lot of fun to do that anyone with even a little bit of mobility could enjoy. One thing we did in Before Times was Escape Room, where you have to team up with random people in your dept and work out a series of clues and ”escape” within a set time. Now that gives character insights, let me tell you! And it is 100% team building and a lot of fun. Afterwards, you get something to eat, and that’s that. It’s an afternoon at most. It involves no alcohol, physical demands of any sort.

          But that’s beside the point. The point is, OP needs to speak to the CEO about their concerns and have a couple of alternative suggestions. They are pretty much being excluded and that is the opposite of ”team building”.

        3. A girl has no name*

          I am also a Pacific NW resident, born and raised. This is the kind of ableist, white-privilege gatekeeping bullcrud that is absolutely rampant here and just needs to stop. There have been decades and centuries of this attitude that everyone is white* and a mountain-man or frontiersman**, and if you don’t fit that mold, you are somehow lacking. And then the Sierra Club wonders why their Portland chapter has an all-white staff.
          *because of Black and Chinese exclusion and anti-miscegenation laws on the books until the late 20th century.
          ** For a fatal example of this toxic attitude, see the 1986 Mount Hood Disaster in which seven students and two teachers died on the mountain.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It says that the boss is the owner/founder, so it’s moot. But if an owner who has a separate CEO attached to them doesn’t know where the money is being spent, that’s a helluva lot bigger issue than the fact they’re funding ski days!

      Companies tend to have employee-engagement funds for exactly this purpose. So it’s within their budget. You’d be shocked to see some places budgets for that. Yes, it’s an employee retention tool, they do want to spend the corporations money that way.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*


    Am I the only person who read this letter and immediately thought this situation is more about the CEO wanting an all expenses covered, paid day off to play outside and less about actual building a team?

    1. Roscoe*

      As someone who likes those events, or would love to try the ones I haven’t, I’d love this. Ice Climbing? Sign me up. I could easily see this just being something that he has learned over time that a lot of people do enjoy doing. I mean if he is the CEO, and the company can afford this, he wouldn’t need an excuse. He could just do it

        1. Suzy Q*

          Most of these activities are things I couldn’t or wouldn’t participate in, however, I would enjoy sitting in the lodge alone, sipping hot chocolate and reading a book.

          1. OP*

            Which I have done on a few occasions! I never felt judged or shamed by my coworkers for doing so. What prompted me to finally write in to Alison is that solo lodge hangout is no longer an option because of Covid. So I am expected to put my full 8 hours while everyone else is skiing.

            1. Anne of Green Gables*

              Maybe that’s a way to approach this? That there was (technically) still an experience for those who aren’t able or comfortable doing the physical outdoor activity, but that option has been taken off the table for now?

            2. Case of the Mondays*

              Would the company cover rentals and lessons for you so you could spend the day participating? I know that doesn’t help anyone with a physical restriction but if yours is not knowing how and not having the gear, this would solve that.

                1. Momma Bear*

                  And say down the road she is still nursing a baby, that still puts her needing to find an appropriate place to pump (that isn’t a gross restroom). My guess is that this was great fun with a small group and so far it’s been OK with a bigger group, but as the company continues to grow, this will be more and more of a thing. They’ve just lucked out so far. I would make suggestions before the next event. It would be like if my company had 4 mandated golf days. I don’t know how to swing a club, don’t have clubs, never set foot on a green. I’d be really annoyed if my options were golf or an 8 hr work day four times a year.

            3. cabbagepants*

              (Joking reply) Can set up a Zoom bridge, invite your whole company, and drink hot chocolate from home on that bridge? That way you’d be participating remotely!

            4. Quill*

              Well that sucks a lot.

              Their planning already sucked, but in ways that probably weren’t obvious to them, in an experience, having the gear, and physical fitness sense, but who the heck looked at going to a ski resort in a pandemic and said “yes, everyone who wants to Meet The Virus gets paid to go do sports, everyone else has to stay behind and finish their work?”

              That’s cinderella shit.

              1. TardyTardis*

                And it’s also very ageist, but since so many lawsuits have failed, nobody cares any more. I suspect the owner is someone who is certain that he or she will never grow old and nobody else he or she ever hires will do so as well. (then again, if they keep skiing on double black diamonds, this indeed may end up coming true).

      1. CowWhisperer*

        Yeah, the people he sees doing high-impact sports probably do like doing high-impact sports – but that’s a very different thing from thinking “Is this going to work for all of my employees?”

        I have mild hypertonic cerebral palsy. I’m an excellent employee in every endeavor I’ve undertaken – but it’s never occurred to me to ask point-blank during an intervieww “do you have team-building activities that I can’t do regardless of access to lessons or equipment because my hip flexors don’t move like most people’s? And if I do attempt mountain climbing and end up needing PT due to triggering my calf muscles, will the company cover the co-pays for the 16+ sessions of PT I need to get back to normal functioning?”

        It’s able-ist because it’s expecting all employees to participate in a recreational activity that requires very, very different physical skills than the normal job duties. There’s a reason I’m not a mountain guide or a ski instructor; that shouldn’t impact my duties as a consultant or teacher or retail worker.

        1. The Dog Whisperer*

          My nursery school teacher had a great saying that has impacted the course of my life.

          “Try it, you might like it.”

          I can understand that skiing and ice climbing, especially at the expert level, might not be to your taste. But what about sailing? Sailing can be physical, and like with anything, there are expert sailers and novices, but it’s not too difficult to get your feet wet and enjoy the activity.

          And yes, I get that marginalized groups generally aren’t growing up sailing. But OP’s company is paying for this, and she works at a consulting firm, so she’s presumably not poor.

          Try the sailing. You might like it.

          1. mrs__peel*

            Nursery school teachers can get away with saying a lot of things that would be extremely condescending to say to another adult.

          2. Fed-o*

            What about the people who can’t swim (life jackets aside), have a fear of water, get motion sickness, etc.? These aren’t common, low-pressure activities that would have surprise problems (like a ping pong table or playing cornhole). These are big activities that require specialized knowledge. And as someone who lives in a ski state and did not grow up skiing, I will say I would not elect to spend all day doing it. Just as someone who’s never been on a boat for hours would probably not relish barfing over the side in front of their colleagues because they didn’t realize they would be seasick. Something adventurous once a year would work, and then maybe a few non-physically demanding activities the other times. It’s just about being considerate to all your staff.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              The smaller the boat, the less likely you are to get motion/seasick, and the bigger the boat, the less likely it is to be a very physical activity. There’s a sweet spot of a boat size around ~20-30 feet that’s not very physical even for the person actually sailing, where most people are just hanging out anyway, has enough safeguards that you’re extremely unlikely to need to know how to swim, and IME with people who get motion sick a lot, doesn’t generally result in motion sickness. That’s not to say everyone has to go or like it, but it is a much more inclusive activity (assuming the company is paying) than the others.

          3. TardyTardis*

            Right, like someone nearing retirement is going to risk being crippled for what remains of their life.


            But I guess that this company has a culture that doesn’t include old people or people with any physical disabilities.

          4. Kal*

            That’s just a rather infantilizing way to reply. Maybe trust people to know their own comfort level and limits? As for me, I’m gonna stay away from any activity likely to dislocate my joints and cause me to miss work for a week by triggering a flare as the best case scenario.

            You don’t need to try drinking bleach to know its not something you should or want to do, and I don’t need to try sailing to know its not something I should or want to do. I truly do not need to try it to know that I won’t like it, because I already have plenty of experience living my own life to know where my limits lie.

        2. The Dog Whisperer*

          …and I literally did not see the above poster’s username before hitting send. My username was not meant as a response to hers. Sorry.

        3. Anonymoose*

          “There’s a reason I’m not a mountain guide or a ski instructor; that shouldn’t impact my duties as a consultant or teacher or retail worker.”

          It isn’t impacting your duties as a consultant or teacher or retail worker. Its a day off. According to the OP it happens 4 times a year. Its really not something to whine about to the degree that the commentariat here is whining about.

          1. NebulaChain*

            But it’s only a day off if you do the thing. Otherwise, you have to work. That kinda sucks.

          2. BadKneesProjectManager*

            The whole point is that it is not a day off for a nursing mother because it is exclusionary by definition. They still have to work as the “alternative”, and get shut out of teambuilding and networking opportunities. She has a physical condition, it’s not her choice — I want to have knees and joints that are not garbage but there is no amount of team-playering and personal will that will make it so. It is literally punishing the OP for having a body that isn’t able to do these things right now or maybe ever.

          3. TardyTardis*

            And if there was an activity that you couldn’t do Because Reasons and still had to work a full day while everyone else has fun?

            Oh, wait, you can’t think of any. How nice for you.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        These kinds of activities ARE exclusionary though. I remember seeing the Enron film and the “boys” who were cooking the books did lots of “adventurous and outdoorsy” stuff like this.
        >Racing cars
        >Game hunting
        >4WD rock crawling
        >Rock climbing
        On the surface it sounds like fun activities people in Texas might do… but it’s intent is to exclude and it’s gross.

    2. Burnout Phoenix*

      I think in this case “team building” is code for “make people feel good about the company”. Different goals.

      (Also, this approach is not universally succeeding at the second goal…)

      1. NQ*

        I come from a working class background, and sometimes I feel a bit on edge when everyone else is taking about skiing and the like. But still, I suspect I’d love these activities if my company offered them. Really agree with what Alison said – these are fine, but should definitely be supplemented with something a bit more normal and accessible as well. Nothing appeals to everyone so diversity is good. Like one place I interviewed at, their best-advertised perk was amazingly-situated seats at the football. People went googoo over it… but I’m afraid a footy match sounds like my idea of hell!

        1. sofar*

          Yeah, my biggest question here is “does everyone have the clothing needed to participate in these activities?” It seems from the LW’s letter, that the CEO is springing for the rental equipment, but what about clothing? I turned own a ski trip with friends because I wasn’t about to invest in $100+ worth of the cold-weather athletic clothing needed for that activity. Even if LW can rent clothing, I’d still feel uncomfortable if I were the only one having to rent or borrow a jacket/ski pants/boots, etc.

          And also I would feel pretty uncomfortable if everyone else was good at an activity and I was a beginner. I get that learning a new skill from coworkers can be very team-buildy, but I’d find it exhausting to be the one who needs to be “helped” the entire time.

          As you said, the solution here is probably to sub in some less-physically-demanding, accessible activities, too.

          1. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

            Plus if she just had a baby, previously owned items might not fit and she might not want to invest in new items that won’t fit her a year on.

          2. Third or Nothing!*

            OMG I didn’t even think about the clothing aspect of it! I’m an avid hiker and runner but living in a warm climate I rarely need anything warmer than full length leggings and a fleece lined jacket. I can totally see how that would add an extra burden and feel exclusionary.

          3. allathian*

            Yeah, and given that she’s just had a baby and needs to breastfeed or pump every 2 or 3 hours, it’s not going to work as they aren’t allowed to use a lodge.

            The team building thing is a sham if the activity is one that not everyone can participate in. The CEO just wants a snow day and is happy for his company to pay for a day out for those employees who like it.

    3. Antilles*

      Nope. You’ll note there’s no mention in the letter of a survey of the staff or soliciting their suggestions or etc.
      This is absolutely a case where the CEO enjoys these activities and he’s picking them specifically because it’s stuff *he* wants to do, so he can get an all-expenses paid trip to pursue his own hobby.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I’ve never worked anywhere with money for expensive team building activities, but when we do something as a team we usually do a survey beforehand to find out what people want to do and try and be aware of peoples’ restrictions and needs.

      2. Daisy*

        But OP says explicitly that she is the only person that doesn’t like skiing. The CEO has chosen something that he, *and almost every single other person*, wants to do. I doubt a staff survey is going to come up with an activity that has a higher popularity rate than 19 out of 20. I think it’s fine for OP to suggest mixing in some other kind of activity, or just ask if she can have the day off, but I think it’s weird to suggest they’ve been doing something wrong.

        1. staceyizme*

          It sounds like this is a problem, currently, for one. It’s not going to make sense to effect a large change on that basis. Especially since the option to hang out and sip hot chocolate or spend the day in whatever modified way is pleasant returns after Covid-19 passes. It’s not a well thought out team builder, because it is exclusionary. But it sounds like it’s on the same level as being vegan when lunch is ordered and options are limited or having a peanut allergy and being unable to eat foods prepared by unknown kitchens would be. For the sake of equity, there should be at least ONE alternate activity. Eventually, someone is going to be unable (or merely unwilling) to participate in what’s on offer. Having an officially sanctioned but alternative activity occurring on the same day sounds like a reasonable solution. Costs and timing should be equivalent. Spa day? Museum day? Retro film festival day? Maybe you could come up with a couple of suggestions. Even if you’re the only one attending the first few alternate events, you’d be doing the company a favor by having spoken up and be doing yourself some good by having a day off that’s equivalent to what the rest of the team is enjoying.

        2. OhNo*

          It’s likely that people , who don’t like these type of events, would either work here a short time and leave (due to feeling left out, much like the OP), or feel pressured to participate because “team building is important!”

          Also, it’s worth examining WHY everyone else at the company likes these kind of events, particularly given what the OP shared about the field being overwhelmingly white and middle-to-upper-class. A lot of times, activities that require large amounts of time, equipment, or money are less about enjoyment and more about access – access that might be denied to those who are poor, disabled, BIPOC, etc.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            From time to time throughout my life I’ve been around these athletic, privileged whites and it seems like there’s a strong competitive aspect of pressure to push themselves and others to keep up. They say they’re having fun, but it seems stressful. I wonder how much of what’s going on at OP’s workplace is about being competitive.
            Someone was mentioning the execs at Enron doing exclusionary athletics – that’s almost certainly to have been more about privileged men competing than having fun.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            Yeah, the fact that 95% of the employees think ice climbing is a great way to spend the day and are accomplished skiers says a lot about who they are hiring – mostly young, athletic people from well to do backgrounds who grew up in the area. Not older people with dodgy knees, nursing mothers, people with disabilities, people who grew up unable to afford expensive hobbies, immigrants who grew up in countries where skiing is not a common hobby, or even people from warmer/less mountainous parts of the US.

            I would also point out that if you’re renting everything, skiing will involve a fair bit of indoor personal contact. Standing in line at the rental counter, getting fitted for equipment and learning how to put it on, getting out of it and returning it at the end of the day… Even for the rest of them, I assume they come inside to warm up and eat at some point.

            1. TardyTardis*

              One has to wonder if there’s a filtering mechanism to hire people who are a ‘good fit’, and also wonder what happens to people who are no longer a good fit due to age or disability as time marches on. Why do I feel this is a newish company?

        3. Caliente*

          Yes, most of them are doing it but here’s the thing – that doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t want to do anything else, so why not a survey?

        4. Antilles*

          I’m not sure we should be taking OP’s statement of “I’m the only person on staff that feels this way” as 19/20 love the events gospel-truth face-value.
          In group events, there’s often people who aren’t actually that enthused, but won’t say anything so as to not be a downer. Or ones who might still enjoy it, but it’s really not their first choice and would be thrilled to mix it up.
          And that’s especially true given that the CEO is apparently openly enthusiastic about this. There’s a power dynamic there that would make a lot of people feel like they need to fake it regardless of their true feelings.

        5. The Dog Whisperer*

          “I think it’s fine for OP to suggest mixing in some other kind of activity, or just ask if she can have the day off, but I think it’s weird to suggest they’ve been doing something wrong.”


      3. Anonymoose*

        … He’s the owner. What do you think the value of an all-expenses paid trip is when those expenses are paid by… him?

    4. Lacey*

      Definitely. It’s also entirely possible that the first few people hired all enjoyed this and the expectation of everyone enjoying it got built it. I worked for the parent company of a start-up and they all enjoyed a yearly trip to a nearby city.

      They tried to continue the tradition when they got reabsorbed, but it was a total disaster, because they expected everyone to know their way around this nearby city, but lots of people had never been there!

    5. meyer lemon*

      I wasn’t clear whether these activities were paid for by the company, or if employees were expected to pitch in for rental costs and whatnot. Either way, it does seem like these are designed to give the CEO a thrill rather than to actually facilitate team building. The only way I could see team building coming out of a ski day is if my coworkers had to rescue me after I fell off an ice wall.

    6. Chinookwind*

      Nope, but I also live a region where these “elitist” activities are practiced by most everyone and are actually one of the perks of living there. We camp, ski, canoe, hike, bike and do all sorts of things on the outdoors (and indoor activitiesare hard to come by and can be more expensive). It is recognized that not everyone can afford all of these activities and there are ways to do find cheap rentals and organizations that actively help newcomers experience these activities for the first time. As for the outdoor gear like parkas, and snow pants, those are also usually required to survive the weather in general.

      Those that don’t enjoy these activities do spend the time in the chalets or camps with a book and coffee and enjoy the quiet. They also speak up and ask for alternatives without insulting the culture or those who enjoy these activities, which is what the OP should do. Telling your boss that he is elitist because he enjoys outdoor sports and wears expensive winter clothing is not going to make him open to alternative ideas. But, pointing out that you are unable to participate and even giving alternative ideas for activities may be enough for him to take you up on it. If you have never spoken up, you will never know.

      BTW, my parka and other winter gear is expensive because it is good quality that will last decades and save my life if my car gets stuck in a ditch. My immigrant father’s equipment is probably 20 years old. Everyone I know has equipment that folk like the OP may call elitist but, then again, we don’t judge people on their brands or pedigree but on how they act.

      1. HM*

        Agreed that OP should be able to expect more from the company… I’m also in the PNW, at a company that MAKES some of that expensive gear for those high-investment outdoor activities OP was talking about, and that naturally attracts people who use that gear in their personal lives…. if WE have the good sense to make team ski days something done only by small subteams in circumstances where everyone enthusiastically opts in, OP’s company can certainly do so as well.

      2. AnonoDoc*

        But you need to have a reserve before you can invest in good quality gear that can last decades.

        I live in a place like you describe, where “everyone” participates in the activities you mention — except for all the invisible people among us who can’t even afford cheap snow boots for themselves or their kids.

        1. Kate 2*

          Agreed. “Cheap” is extremely relative. A cheap kayak, a cheap ice fishing hut, a cheap boat, etc are WAY beyond the average person’s ability to afford. It’s like a cheap set of golf clubs, doesn’t really exist. They might be cheap FOR golf clubs, but they aren’t cheap in the overall sense.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            Not to mention owning a car so you can get to those hiking spots.

            It’s really important in situations like this to remember that “everyone I know” and “everyone” are not the same group of people.

            1. Chinook*

              I agree. My issue is with the OP calling it elitist to have gear for these activities when really it is just choosing which hobbies you put your money in, especially when it is a common activity in the area.

              She also states “I am the only non-white staff member and the only one from a poor background” as if these are white-only activities and no poor people are allowed. Would she have been offended if they took one look at her and decided she has never did any winter sports before? No, they instead treated her as they would anyone else living in the area, a treatment that didn’t change when she didn’t speak up.

              AAM always says that the first step is to speak up clearly and that is what she needs to do here. She may also want to have options available as a good boss is going to ask what would work for for her, not to put the work back on her but because the next activity chosen should be one she can participate in and she would know best what that would be.

              Now, if she gets push back or they don’t believe that she really can’t participate, that is an important sign of it being a toxic environment. But being upset that the boss doesn’t read her mind isn’t getting her anywhere.

              1. Æthelflæd*

                To “choosing which hobbies you put your money in” means having money to choose to put into a hobby to begin with. I imagine the low-income people struggling to make ends meet are just too conflicted about which of their hobbies to invest in!

                1. Kal*

                  I can confirm. Growing up, it was just a matter of not knowing whether to invest in an equipment rental to ski for a day or paying school fees for the year or food for a month. We ultimately chose to spend the money on the hobby of eating food to stay alive, but I guess just different priorities!

                  PS: schools denying kids the books they need for their classes that the school has had for 20 years and are just sitting in the school’s supply room as ‘punishment’ for their parents being unable to pay school fees that are legally required to be optional is a super shitty practise that does a good job of making sure everyone in the class can spot the poor kid who has to beg to share someone else’s book.

              2. Roci*

                Come on, I think it’s pretty clear that OP meant “non-white staff from a poor background” to show that most of the other staff are, and I believe it is common knowledge in North America that sports like skiing and snowboarding are traditionally popular among wealthy white people, culturally and economically. It’s very expensive and you have to live near a snowy mountain, or be able to get there!

                It’s nice that the team didn’t assume that OP wouldn’t want to join because of their background, but it shows a real blind spot in the company. It’s not like they’re playing soccer/football, which is popular in almost every country around the world and has much lower entry requirements.

              3. aebhel*

                It *is* elitist, and the ‘no poor people allowed’ is the default state when activities require you to have a lot of free time and disposable income. It’s not that they’re barring people at the door; it’s that someone who works three jobs and struggles to cover their rent is not going to be able to choose to invest in expensive and time-consuming hobbies no matter how much they want to.

                It’s not that they should have looked at a non-white employee and gone ‘obviously, she can’t ski’, it’s that they should have considered beforehand how accessible and enjoyable these activities are going to be to *everyone*.

              4. Freeatlast*

                This response reminds me of the responses to Outside Magazine FB articles by people of color on how exclusionary the outdoor community can be. The number of “no it’s not” or “stop playing the race card” responses generally goes to prove that it is, indeed, exclusionary. The unbridgeable that you have taken at the term “elitist” indicates that you might not have considered the position of those who have no discretionary income or came from the a background like that.

      3. TardyTardis*

        Yes, and people who can’t afford those activities keep their mouths shut and smile. How nice for you that you can afford them. Might I suggest that this is not always the case for everyone?

        And someday you too will realize that your body has stopped cashing those checks.

      4. Kal*

        Given your name, I’m guessing southern Alberta? Cause I grew up poor there and skiing was a normal school field trip that was still elitist as hell. I only got to go once because my friends begged their parents to pay for me since they noticed me being excluded from everything all the time. If you live in rural areas, ski jackets and snowpants are fairly normal, sure, but that doesn’t include the expenses of equipment rental and lift tickets and such, and even ‘cheap’ versions of those are costly. And once you’re in the cities its not normal to have the clothes even, since now you’re in a place where there’s almost always a building you can pop into to warm up if you need and freezing to death in a ditch isn’t the same risk.

        I don’t have the money on hand to buy winter gear that will last decades. Its the Vime’s Boots Theory. If you don’t have the money to buy decent gear up front, you end up stuck in an endless cycle of buying cheap stuff that is never as good and breaks down quickly so you end up spending way more than if you were rich enough to afford the lump sum for decent gear up front.

        And if you think people don’t judge people on their brands or pedigree, then you really aren’t seeing the experience of others. While the bar is lower for those things than it seems to be elsewhere, its still a thing people like me experienced every single day growing up. I mean, do you really think there are so many giant Ford F150s and such on the road, even in the cities where there is rarely a need to haul anything, without it being a brand thing?

  4. EPLawyer*

    “Also, any chance that you’re not the only one on staff who’d welcome a change? Most offices have people who go along with this kind of thing because they don’t want to make waves, but who secretly aren’t thrilled with it. It might be worth trying to feel out some coworkers on it. And even if it turns out that everyone truly loves these quarterly Feats of Expensive Athleticism, they still might be willing to support changing it up, simply from hearing how you feel.”

    Right there. A lot of people go along because “it’s what we have always done” and “the ceo loves it.” Although it seems the CEO loves the PLANNING. So hey, the CEO can plan something a little less physical. You say everyone there is thoughtful and there is a good work life balance. A good judge of how they would take some gentle pushback is how did they handle your maternity leave? Were they matter of fact about it? Did they try to work with you to see what leave worked for you, instead of “this is company policy deal with it.” Was there moaning and groaning about you being off or did they just figure it out and redistribute the work?

    Query: When did team building become only physical activities OR providing HIGHLY INTRUSIVE personal information?

    1. Mimi Me*

      The last time I did a team building activity we stood in a giant circle and stepped into it if we’d done the thing that was being read by the visiting VP. She was shocked at how many people had seen a moose in their own yards (we were in NH) and was horrified by how many people had struck one / nearly struck one with their vehicle. Our VP was a lifelong NYC resident so her shock was understandable. LOL!

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        A good friend of mine sent me a photo of herself having to build a balsawood and newspaper something-or-other as a team building activity. There were no skis in sight. That’s the type of thing I suspect most of us are out here doing.

        Not that skiing can’t ever be team building, but it doesn’t seem like it is in this case.

        Also, this letter reminds me very much of the letter from a couple of years back where the manager was always planning super-sporty team activities AND marking people down when they didn’t participate, even if they had obvious physical challenges. I laughed out loud when someone in the comments said that she generally does the Winnie the Pooh Stoutness Exercises workout, so no way was she going on a 10-mile hike with colleagues.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        That’s what I was thinking of for ‘team building’. Truthfully, I think a lot of team building is silly, but a lot of very smart people disagree with me, so I acknowledge I know nothing.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I was at a long-term back-office temp job and people were grumpy because of changes in the company which I only partly understood, as a temp.
          They did a team-building exercise that involved going into the hallway and rolling balls around, IRRC.
          I was reluctant because I didn’t think it would help, but it did. I felt a little better afterward.
          The changes in the company caused it to lose customers – which all the staff could have told them, of course – and two years later that division was sold to another company. But let’s fix that problem with team-building! /s

        2. Caroline Bowman*

          Me too, but for it to work at all, it must be something everyone can at least somewhat enjoy ”as a team”.

          The notion that it has to be this complicated, challenging thing, involving feats of engineering, sporting prowess and so on, is nuts. What is wrong with simply saying ”it’s been a hell of a quarter, you’re all required to come for lunch to X suitable establishment and no work talk will be allowed and then all go home a couple of hours early to decompress”? Surely that would lift people’s moods and allow for a bit of chat and camaraderie during work time? Is this not team building?

          1. TardyTardis*

            But that would be fun for the peons, too! Can’t have *that*, at least not in some companies.

    2. HS Teacher*

      I worked at a place that liked to do golf outings. Well, I grew up extremely poor and had never been on a golf course. Instead of embracing this and taking the time to teach me, they ridiculed me for it. I couldn’t leave that industry fast enough.

      1. Funbud*

        I was so happy when my last boss, also from a blue collar background, declared early on that he hated golf and would prefer to avoid it. A few suppliers were quite crushed; they were used to their gold outings with the VP and distributing tickets to tournaments. On the plus side, the team builders he organized for our dept were things like a Escape Room visit and a cooking class. The one golf-adjacent thing we did was a visit to one of those fancy driving ranges where you don’t have to know how to golf to have fun hitting the ball. Plus there was a delicious lunch and cocktails.

    3. tink*

      One of the things we do at staff day that’s REALLY popular is trivia, and I’m surprised that isn’t more common. The group that runs it does a Family Feud style system, so the questions stay pretty PG (think things like “Name someone who wears a cape but isn’t a superhero” or “top 5 things a cowboy can’t live without”) and we have a lot of fun even if we don’t win. And it’s a great way to meet some of your colleagues from different locations.

      1. Cobol*

        I love trivia, but I bet you find there are the same number of people who don’t like it (and if you sit around not answering any questions it can leave a bad taste).

        As Alison mentioned it’s hard to do something everybody likes. I think the only thing you can do is vary the options.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah. You can’t please everyone, but you can make sure everything is accessable, everything is optional and that you don’t get stuck in a rut of doing Jeopardy in the cafeteria every three months.

        2. AMT*

          I agree. Some of these threads are veering into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory. There’s absolutely no activity that everyone with every body type, illness, and allergy can participate in that everyone will enjoy equally, so the best solution is to rotate the type of activity you plan, and to try to make sure that when you have a “jumping off cliffs” activity, you also have a “doing karaoke at the hotel bar while other people jump off cliffs” activity.

        3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          I don’t like it! Like, in theory it sounds fun but I hate being on the spot to come up with things fast! It can be fun for me if there’s no pressure to be the one talking and so when I do know things, I can participate, but no one’s gonna be like “omg Marfisa why aren’t you pulling your weight”

        4. TardyTardis*

          Well, I’ve done the live audition twice but never picked, so I have a little different attitude…but yeah, it would get boring if that was all my company did.

      2. yala*

        Oh! I just attended a virtual conference where one of the ice-breakers on the first day was a trivia game. I didn’t do particularly well (it was all about music, and once you get to opera or classical, my knowledge becomes nil), but it was still a lot of fun! (and there were giftcards for the top three, so…y’know. If the CEO still wants to spend a ridiculous amount of money…)

        Live all options, it’s not really something everyone would enjoy, but it would probably make for a nice (and accessible) change of pace.

      3. Chinook*

        But evrn the trivia thing can backfire horribly. I still cringe at DH’s coworkers wondering how he and I seemed to know so much. The not so hidden implication was that the college dropout and his wife (who must be as uneducated as him because he would never have married a university grad?) shouldn’t know how to crush them all in all aspects of Cranium.

        My take away was that there is no perfecr team building exercise to please everyone. I will not sing karaoke regardless of how good I am because I kjow how mean people can be. I roll my eyes at any trust exercises or anything that looks like somethung I used in a teenage classroom. The only good ones are optional and have a variety of options to choose from, none of which should mean working your regular shift .

    4. Hil*

      I grin and bear these activities and I think it’s assumed I’m into them. I’m mildly uncomfortable and passing as another bougie consultant even though I grew up working class. However, if I got a whiff that someone else was unhappy I would 1) totally completely get it, even if it seems like I’m part of the “enthused wealthy white skier” crowd
      2) Be happy to say something on their behalf, without mentioning their name, and claiming it came totally from me

      Maybe you have an ally who would be willing to rock the boat and in a safer place to do so if you don’t feel you are.

    5. Townie*

      I want to encourage this, too, LW. I would probably be one of those who went along, felt mildly to moderately uncomfortable, and would thank you or another for finally raising the issue. So there may be kindred spirits.

  5. Roscoe*

    As someone who has planned activites at work (nothing like this though), might I also suggest offering to take the reins of planning, or at least assisting with the planning process. I know sometimes people don’t want to do it, and I know Alison brings up the gender dynamics. But as someone who often plans events, both at work and in my social life, there is nothing more annoying than people who bring issues, but aren’t willing to put in any effort to make those changes. People had all sorts of complaints, but when I asked them to join me in planning, it was always an excuse of why they wouldn’t do so.

    1. Union Maid*

      so someone with a young baby has the choice between being the lone opt-out of team building or organising an event that may be unpopular or at least challenging to workmates? sounds like punishment for not fitting in.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I would say help with planning – not take on all the planning by themselves.

      2. lost academic*

        This. It’s not a good idea to suggest that the person who has legitimate inclusion concerns be immediately voluntold to come up with an alternative. Being a proactive problem solver is great, but given the description of the existing quarterly events, coming up with new events of that scale is a significant time commitment.

      3. Jenna*

        Yeah, I agree. These are team building events and should not be the responsibility of a single employee, unless that employee super wants to take on the logistics. ESPECIALLY since the employee is a woman of color in a (Mostly? Entirely? White office.) I think it’s fine to expect someone to suggest alternative activities they would prefer, but suddenly shifting the responsibility for planning to them does sound like a punishment for not being from the same socioeconomic background.

      4. Roscoe*

        I mean, if you want an event changed, and no one else does, helping to plan this alternate event seems more than fair to me.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s really not. When your office has been systematically exclusionary (especially with issues like race or disability), you don’t ask the person who has borne that burden to now take on the work of fixing it.

          1. Roscoe*

            I mean, I just feel that the risk is then run of CEO just not doing anything at all because he dosen’t want to plan it. Or maybe he puts together a committee, who doesn’t get things done. And maybe that option is better for OP. But again, I just don’t see the harm in offering to assist changing things. And I’m black myself in an industry that isn’t the most diverse. But I’ve definitely been willing to help if I saw a situation that I felt needed to change.

            1. Caliente*

              But Roscoe that is they’re even open to it and the lone person of color in the office is probably not going to sway them.
              Let me tell you something, if one of the OTHER people there sat out one or 2 of these, then CEO might notice and question. Haven’t you ever noticed that? If you decide not to join up or do something then people write it off in their minds and attribute it to whatever they think about you. If it’s someone they can “relate to”, then they would probably actually ASK.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I could barely organize getting myself into a shower for 5 min every day and grabbing some food when I was hungry, when my kids were infants. The idea that OP, in that same situation, should organize a team-building exercise for her whole company, is frankly giving me hives.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I absolutely think this is fair, and can give complainers who just want to complain some insight into how much work a successful event takes.

      1. Coffee Bean*

        But this is not the case in this situation. Or really any situation where the team building involves some physical skill some people don’t have due to lack of exposure or a disability. Say your boss plans a rock climbing event. One of the team members is in a wheelchair. This person cannot join in, so they have to come up with some alternate activity. This can feel very isolating, and this person would have a viable complaint here. What would be fair is for the boss to come up with an activity that everyone can join and encourage participation, but not make it mandatory. Sometimes complaints are valid, and it’s not just people complaining for the sake of complaining.

        1. Chinook*

          But, as an able body person, I wouldn’t know where to start. To me, asking for suggestions that I can build on is necessary. I don’t need you to plan it, but I do need guidelines for what will work otherwise we run the risk of me planning wheelchair basketball and finding out that the same person doesn’t want anything athletic at all.

          1. Anna*

            Why would you go immediately to wheelchair basketball for a team of people who mostly don’t use wheelchairs, when you could plan, say, a game night, or tickets to a spectator event, or a nice dinner, all of which would be accessible to lots of different people who may have life circumstances (medical conditions, fears, family obligations, etc.) that they don’t want to disclose or discuss in detail with coworkers?

      2. Natalie*

        By “complainers” do you mean people with different abilities, protected by the ADA, or just pregnant women and new moms?

    3. Not a Blossom*

      I get where you’re coming from, but I think in a case like this when the CEO is planning events specifically for team building, the activities are mandatory unless you want to spend the day working, and the OP has some very valid reasons why this doesn’t work for her (and when there are classist and ableist dynamics at play), the CEO should take it upon himself to do it. This isn’t like trying to find a bar for a happy for happy hour or someone not liking the location of the Christmas party. This is a quarterly event organized by the CEO to team build that excludes a single team member. Honestly, the CEO is dense at best and a dick at worst for not noticing on his own.

      1. somanyquestions*

        Right. It isn’t her job to plan an event that isn’t exclusionary. That should be the baseline for things like this, not some stretch goal, and she should be able to expect the CEO to do better.

        1. Amaranth*

          I think at a minimum though, LW has to say something if they want something different, maybe to their manager or ask around with other employees. It sounds possible that the CEO is a little oblivious and think they are doing something nice for everyone, given how much they like setting up the details, and not considering that those who don’t show up aren’t just picking and choosing events. If someone shows up but isn’t skiing and doesn’t take the lessons, then I’d assume they enjoy a day getting paid to read by the fire with free food and hot chocolate.

      2. Roscoe*

        People have different skills and frankly desires to plan different things. In my friend group, I may be happy to put together a softball team, but not want to plan an out of town trip. At work, I may be willing to plan a happy hour, but not an all day event. He is the CEO, he isn’t the one who wants change. And frankly, we aren’t sure how many others do. So her being the one who wants it, i see nothing wrong with offering to assist in planning

        1. KWu*

          He is the CEO, he is trying to build a team, and he isn’t succeeding at that. If she wanted to assist in planning, she’s always entitled to offer help, but given how exclusionary these activities are, I also don’t think it’s fair to expect her to offer to help to resolve a problem that wasn’t caused by her but by the CEO/the history of the world.

        2. Anonandon*

          How do we know he doesn’t want/would not be open to change? OP hasn’t asked. CEO might be happy about an alternative, more than willing, etc. Yeah, he probably does enjoy these activities. But for all we know he also is KILLER at charades, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, or Clue.

    4. Temperance*

      I totally get this. I’m a person who organizes volunteer events. And I get told, regularly, that we should look into X project, why aren’t we doing Y thing … so I always tell them that they are welcome to look into that themselves.

      They never do.

      1. Roscoe*

        Of course not. Its much easier to just complain than to actually try to get something going that you think would be better.

        1. Linda's Wine Glass*

          Suggesting work for others to do in a volunteer environment is sooooooo far away from a WOC employee going to the white CEO to reconsider “team building” days that are team building only for the white people.

          Your deliberate lack of seeing the power dynamics along with the general racism issues the US has is concerning.

          1. Roscoe*

            Yes, please tell me how, as a black man in America, I don’t see racism in the USA. Go ahead and explain my lived experience to me.

            Of course there are power dyanmics at play, I never suggested otherwise. But, if the suggestion is already to go to the CEO, which Alison does suggest, I’m giving a way for it to come across better. In my experience, most managers (and people in general) , reply better to solutions offered, than just to problems raised

    5. Ainsel*

      This is, as you clearly learned in your time planning, a great way to make sure you don’t actually get any feedback. While it’s perfectly reasonable to ask someone with an issue what they’d prefer and take that into account, this increasingly widespread idea that you have to have a “solution” packaged and ready to go to have the standing to register dissatisfaction is gaga. We have a division of labor. Whoever volunteered–volunteered!–to plan activities legitimately has a different set of responsibilities than any complainant, which is why the complainant went to them. If you decided to take that responsibility then, yes, people will place the responsibility for addressing issues with the activities on you! You signed up for it!

      1. Roscoe*

        Its really not. You don’t like the activity I’m planning, help me plan something else (or do it yourself), or don’t go, or go and enjoy it. But if you have no solutions and are just bringing me problems, then its not really helping anything. Taking 20 peoples ideas (who often have 0 concept of what doing their ideas actually takes) into account just doesn’t work, unless there is a committee specifically made for this.

        But yes, I volunteered. And too many people complaining, means I’ll just step back. At that point, someone else can do it, or there may be nothing.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am not even seeing OP asking that the company stop having its Quarterly Expensive Feats of Athleticism (all credit to Alison for this term). She just wants there to be other options in addition to “ice climb” and “put in a full day of work if you cannot ice climb”.

      1. Quill*

        Full disclosure I love rock walls. I can DO rock walls… sometimes. Ice climbing? Theoretically lovely. In practice the only way I’m trying it for the first time is in a one on one lesson that includes an instant escape route if my body (or brain) decides it’s not happening.

        I would NOT want to do rock walls with coworkers during the sometimes that I can manage them, because 1) questions about “you can excercise but you have a doctor’s note to wear sneakers?” (Karen, the things that are wrong with me are EXTREMELY specific, go get an MD and then come back to me so I can tell you where to stick it) 2) societal expectations that women Look Good Even While Athleting 3) if injury occurs I am trapped at the location, probably without transportation home, definitely without anyone qualified to help me figure out injury or chronic pain treatment, ABSOLUTELY in ‘unprofessional’ tears of pain in front of coworkers.

        Pig lab from hell did this sort of “participate or work” team building (far more sedately than OP’s workplace: see, mandatory bowling, a sport which I did not know I physically cannot do until I was doing it,) and I still haven’t forgiven them for it.

        1. Cascadia*

          Yes to all this – I am a very outdoorsy person (it’s actually part of my job) in the Pacific Northwest that does a lot of outdoorsy things and I have ZERO interest in ice climbing. I don’t love heights, I don’t like rock climbing, I get cold super easily which I can manage, but there is no part of ice climbing that sounds fun to me. I have a really hard time believing that 19/20 in the PNW all like ice climbing – that’s insane! I have a hard time believing 19/20 like skiing, but that’s a bit more believable given it’s prevalence in some geographic regions and amongst upper class white people. But ice climbing is very niche, and waaaay more challenging. I also really like your point about WOMEN doing these things. You are too right that there are all sorts of extra expectations about how women look/act/do during these sorts of activities. Do I want my coworkers staring at my ass as I try to climb a rock wall? I do not.

    7. Daisy-dog*

      I just feel like all of these activities are actually harder to plan than a more typical team building activity. Call up your local escape room, bowling alley, Whole Foods cooking school, or Dave & Buster’s and they will do most of the planning for you.

      1. Chinook*

        Depending on wheevthe OP is, some of those activities may be farther to get to. People around here do those outdoor activities because indoor ones are not always an optom.

        1. Anna*

          A picnic in a park is outdoors, accessible for pretty much everyone, and carries minimal risk of someone breaking a femur.

    8. CanCan*

      How about suggesting a games day? Divide the team into groups of 3-5, and bring in enough 500 or 1000-piece puzzles for each group. Fastest group wins.

      (Maybe after Covid is over though, as that requires close physical proximity.)

  6. KHB*

    Is there a level of management between you and the CEO? If so, I suggest first bringing it up with your direct manager. If the impetus for these activity days is coming from the CEO, you might get better results from pleading your case with someone who feels more neutral about them than you would if you went straight to the top.

    1. KHB*

      …and for this upcoming day, at least, I’d definitely play the baby card, because it’s not that you’re “choosing” not to participate, it’s that you literally can’t. Ask if they can at least make an exception to the usual policy, and give you an extra day off instead of requiring you to work your regular hours. That may plant a seed that these activities are not inclusive of everybody.

      1. mf*

        Yep, this is a good idea. If the OP emphasizes that she can’t participating because she’s a nursing mother, a smart manager will realize that this is a legal discrimination issue.

  7. Noncompliance Officer*

    I mean, if the company genuinely wanted to “do good” in the world, they could donate all the money for these trips to a charity or civic organization and spend 1 days each quarter doing a volunteer project.

    1. Colette*

      That’s true about literally every cent that people spend on themselves. The company is allowed to spend money on teambuilding if they believe it helps their organization.

      1. Roscoe*

        Or even if they just want to spend money on a “fun” day for the staff, that is fine too. Everything doesn’t have to be about giving back. Sometimes, making your employees feel appreciated is a perfectly valid way to spend money

        1. Properlike*

          Also, I don’t know what industry the OP works in, but if you’re working in an industry that is already community-facing, there is the very real phenomenon of “empathy fatigue.” If your profession involves spending most days, every day, with a needy population (anything from education to mental health to [insert other examples here]), being voluntold that you will be teambuilding by spending a day volunteering for *another* needy population can feel psychologically overwhelming even when it’s done out of the best of intentions.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        There’s nothing wrong with volunteering, but there’s also nothing wrong with giving staff a day to have some fun. You don’t have to feel guilty for spending money on yourself.

        This is a conversation we have often in an organization I belong to (think Rotary or Junior League or Jaycees) We do lots of community service, but we also do fun group activities. The fun group activities are almost necessary, because if I just wanted to go serve at the soup kitchen, I don’t have to pay to belong to the organization for that.

    2. JustaTech*

      Seriously. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in the PNW, indoors and out. They could help sort food donations at Food Lifeline, or make dinners for people with AIDS at Lifelong, or they could partner with any of a number of ecological groups to do conservation work (mostly pulling out invasive species like blackberries), if the CEO is big on being outside.

      They could even do a couple of volunteering and a couple of “fun” activities during the year for balance.

      1. Ashley*

        Habitat for Humanity could be a fun one for people that are outdoorsy types. They could all go show off their new tool belts and power tools. A good HFH will have volunteer activities for a variety of skill sets on and off the job site.

        1. Observer*

          Given some of the disasters we’re seen on this site alone regarding HFH volunteering situations, I would not assume that this will necessarily work for everyone.

            1. Observer*

              The first one I can find has this gem:

              I went to the event with everyone two years ago and got assigned to dig a deep hole with a shovel for the whole day. I didn’t have work clothes and at one point my boss had to come over and tug my shirt down to my waist and when I was neck deep in the hole so I wasn’t exposed, which was so embarrassing. I wanted to cry, I was so miserable.

              And this was in the comments from that OP:
              I work jeans and the t-shirt they provided and then some tennis shoes that I soon learned weren’t as enclosed as I had thought (mud started seeping in). The t-shirt was shorter than I need for my shape

              Link to follow

            2. mrs__peel*

              Anecdata: one of my best friends cut her hand open on a band saw at Habitat for Humanity when she was 14. She had significant nerve damage and had to play left-handed piano for a long time.

              1. Self Employed*

                They should NOT have assigned a minor to use power tools in the first place. Good grief!

      2. Observer*

        Most of these are really nay good for someone who is nursing.

        Corporate voluntolding is not really any better than corporate “team building” events. They can be just as exclusionary and problematic.

        I’d also be careful about assuming that every organization that uses volunteers is going to find a “volunteer day” all that useful to them.

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          I had to miss a fun outing at a new job because I was nursing and had no idea the logistics of being able to pump at the location… I probably could’ve gone and then tried to make it work somehow but the fear that finding a private place to pump every few hours wouldn’t work out and that I’d be trapped there all day (bussed-in situation, 2 hours away) was too great. They made me work a regular day that day, by myself.

        2. JustaTech*

          The two specific examples I gave (Food Lifeline and Lifelong) I mentioned because they do have programs for drop-in, 2-3 hour shifts, as well as more regular engagement.

          I have no idea if any of these could work for someone who is nursing; I don’t know if they could swing a 3 hour shift with breaks or not. Obviously it would depend on that person’s situation and schedule. I was just offering some suggestions of other things that the OP could mention in the future. Obviously most of these things are closed or limited right now for COVID anyway.

          1. Self Employed*

            The official “volunteer days” are canceled where I live (liability) but the organizations are 10X busier and have so much less help due to the pandemic because they’re not getting volunteer work crews from the tech companies.

    3. Observer*


      For one thing, that argument is essentially saying that anyone who ever spends money on themselves doesn’t care about doing good, no matter what else they do.

      Secondly, corporate volunteering efforts tend to be quite problematic. Again, it’s a matter of finding a cause that everyone can get on board with and that everyone is capable of doing on the one hand, while being limited to organizations that can actually benefit from something like this. And, to be clear a lot of times organizations CANNOT benefit from this. In some cases, the organization will accept the “help” because they believe that it will create useful relationships. But otherwise? My organization does use volunteers. But having a bunch of employees come in for ONE day would be highly disruptive for us most of the year (pre-covid, when gather was not a problem.) There are literally a handful of days where having a bunch of extra hands would be useful.

    4. Stumped*

      It’s not about doing good, it’s about team building for the company, for better or worse (and I think it sounds awful). Unless you personally skip leisure activities in lieu of donating to charity I don’t think judging a business on how they spend their money, especially when the intent is good, is not where the focus should be.

    5. Save the Hellbender*

      Yeah, I gotta say this idea feels a little Peter Singer-y to me, especially because they’re a for-profit consulting company, not a non-profit or university or government agency. I take it as an indication they are in general a good culture that cares about their employees, and the LW likes working there, not that they cannot spend dollars on themselves without being hypocritical.

    6. SomebodyElse*

      So what… then you have a bunch of employees complaining about forced volunteerism, not an org I support, can’t do this volunteer bit for one reason or another. At least with a leisure activity at least some people will be happy.

      And yes, not everything is about giving back, doing good, or some other altruistic thing. Sometimes it’s just about having fun and doing something for enjoyment. AND THAT IS OK! (yes, I meant the bold!) Sometimes I think we collectively forget that it’s ok to enjoy things.

      For the OP, I’m going to say make sure you read the room on this one. If your small organization enjoys these activities, I wouldn’t be too keen to rock that particular boat. Sure offer suggestions (but for god sake make them equivalent … somehow I think Trivia night vs. Mountaineering would be received about as well as and IRS audit notification) So look around and see if there are other equally exciting and fun alternatives that maybe don’t have the sport component to them.

    7. Autistic AF*

      Supporting local business is also “doing good”, especially in these pandemic days (providing OP’s CEO is doing so).

    8. I'm just here for the cats*

      I get the reasoning behind the volunteer project but I would like to offer a cautionary tale. A former company I worked at was big with being involved with the community. A few times a year teams would sign up to volunteer at the local food bank during their monthly food fair where they hand out large amounts of food, Usually enough food for 2 weeks. The set up is that you have to walk through a line of volunteers to get everything (kind of like a lunch line where there are different stations).

      At the time I was the only one working in my family. And although I wasn’t ashamed of needing to use the food bank, I didn’t want it brought to the attention of my co-workers. I was also relatively new to the company. With the setup of the volunteers, there would be several coworkers who would have seen me. I don’t really want my grandboss or the CFO of the company handing me a box of canned corn. It felt demeaning. Plus there was a lot of gossip in that place, so who knows what would have been said about an employee using the food bank. I know of at least a few people who would have been snobbish and figured that I was abusing the food bank.

      There were times when I knew that teams were volunteering and so I would skip the food fair that month because I didn’t want to be seen by my coworkers. My point is, if you are going to do a team volunteer project make sure it’s something that none of the employees would be a client and feel awkward about seeing their coworkers.

      1. The Dog Whisperer*

        “There were times when I knew that teams were volunteering and so I would skip the food fair that month because I didn’t want to be seen by my coworkers.”

        Ergo, the company should never have a volunteer drive?

        1. onco fonco*

          …no? There was specific advice at the end of the comment and it wasn’t that. It was to be mindful when choosing volunteer opportunities and remember that employees could also be clients of said services.

    9. Allonge*

      That’s a totally legit thing for a company to do, but does not sound like it’s the problem or the solution for this case?

  8. CatCat*

    It could be helpful if OP provided some ideas for more inclusive activities. From the description, it sounds like the CEO is a thoughtful person, but clueless on this issue. So some specific activity ideas may help the CEO understand better and picture the alternatives.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. Suggest some lower impact alternatives and maybe others would be supportive of this. People may go along because they don’t want to make waves but if you suggested something fun but also inclusive.

      In my experience it’s often received better if you say “I can’t do x but wondered if we could do y or z” as opposed to trying to stop x from happening.

    2. Colette*

      I agree. I’m not sure what that would be in their area – a cooking class? A day volunteering for an organization? Renting out an arcade and having a video game tournament? A movie marathon in a theatre? A day at a spa?

      Obviously, none of these are good for everyone – but neither is mountaineering. (And they’re also not pandemic safe, but I assume one day the pandemic will end.)

      1. JustaTech*

        In Seattle I’ve done cooking classes, bowling, a cross between mini-golf and pool (I don’t remember what it’s called but it’s a thing), as well as volunteering sorting food donations.

        We wanted to do glass blowing but ran out of money. There’s also a pinball museum that does events that’s quite fun. We skipped the escape room because two of my coworkers would not have worked out locked in a room together, but with the right people that’s a lot of fun. And there’s ax throwing! (I haven’t done it but my spouse did with their work group and had a lot of fun.)

        All of those things would have to be post-COVID, but it’s not like crazy skiing is the only option. (Skiing is *such* an investment, in clothing alone. And I don’t downhill ski, I only cross-country, which is less of an investment, more beginner friendly and safer, but I would still never suggest it as a work activity.)

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Skiing can be a brutal sport financially, logistically, and physically. It is one of the least inclusive activities I can think of if you didn’t grow up doing it. I can almost guarantee that the only thing the CEO is thinking is “the company is picking up the tab, so what’s the problem?”

          Once a year? Sure, with the option NOT to go into the office if you’re not doing that. But have some other activities that don’t involve risking your health & safety.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, speaking as a clumsy person who doesn’t enjoy being out in the cold and would doubtless injure myself horribly if I ever tried skiing or snowboarding, this is an injury nightmare waiting to happen.
            Also, I can understand that rock climbing or hiking can allow for team building, but skiing? You can’t fit that many people on a ski lift and then you have a helmet on and you’re mostly skiing down the mountain alone. Unless they’re roping 20 people together to ski, I’d imagine it’s the travel and the apres ski that allows for the team building, not the actual skiing. So if team building is truly the aim (which seems doubtful), they should probably do something else instead.

            1. Paulina*

              Yes, skiing isn’t much of a “team” activity. It’s about going, I think. Which suggests to me that the solution might be as simple (for the CEO) as finding a place that has a wider range of activities available, so that the options aren’t just “downhill ski or hang out at the (pandemic-restricted) lodge,” even under pandemic restrictions. Go to the rec centre that includes a climbing wall instead of the climbing wall facility, for example. These types of resorts and centres can be more expensive, but they exist.

          2. TWW*

            A lot of skiers seem blind to the fact that there are people who don’t ski.

            Expecting a non-skier to join a ski trip makes about as much sense as inviting a non-musician to sit in on a jam session with your band.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Less sense…a band can lay in a supply of silly percussion instruments like rattles shaped like fruit or fish.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          And even just a picnic in the park with light games, or a trip to the zoo. The weather’s great here almost half the year (despite the rainy reputation) so those could easily be interspersed with more intense activities.

          1. Cascadia*

            Yea! Museums, a trip to the space needle, there’s lots of boat cruise options in Seattle that include meals. Whale watching boats are great. I love idea of glass blowing – there’s also all sorts of other arts classes around that you could do.

          2. Freya*

            My town has a walk in aviary – you pay your money, get a container of sliced apples and a container of meal worms and then go into the aviary where a billion birds will eat out of your hands or land on your head. There’s seats everywhere, the paths are mostly flat and wide enough for two wheelchairs (although the entry doors are single width), and a lot of the birds are wildlife rehab that couldn’t be released into the wild (the aviary is basically funding the wildlife care the owners are doing)

        3. NoviceManagerGuy*

          “a cross between mini-golf and pool”
          I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds rad. Also like I’d be terrible at it, but whatever.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Croquet? (Sometimes crazy competitive…just ask Alice about the Red Queen.)

          2. JustaTech*

            I found it: it’s called “DUFFLEBOARD™” It looks like minigolf holes, except they’re sized for pool balls, and they’re up at pool table height. So instead of hitting the ball with a golf club you hit it with a pool cue.

            As someone who can’t putt for anything, it was different enough to be fun.

      2. OtterB*

        tl;dr: It seems best to have a variety of activities. My organization (20 people) has a volunteer “social officer” who collects staff suggestions, gets people to vote if necessary, and organizes a social activity a few times a year. We’re currently 100% remote due to pandemic so the activities the past year have been things that could be done on a zoom call and had some interaction: pumpkin carving, cookie decorating, and a “craft night” where people were painting or working on various things. When we did things in person, there were some more active outings also: climbing (both in a gym and outdoors) and biking, but also an escape room. Always optional. Office pays for supplies and for the leader/instructor if one is needed. We’re looking now into remote cooking classes or maybe cheese tasting.

    3. Antilles*

      Excellent point. This is a change from his current method, so bringing alternative ideas to the table might help make this much easier to pull off.

    4. Ace in the Hole*

      I agree. Particularly given the restrictions of a pandemic, where many indoor activities may not be open.

      I would also take the focus off of the expensive/elitist element. I expect that would (at best) make them shift to a less expensive outdoor physical activity. I’m also in the PNW and hiking, kayaking, fishing, cross-country skiing, and frisbee sports are the go-to cheap activities in my town. You can rent a kayak for cheaper than a movie ticket here, and hiking is literally free… but that doesn’t mean they’d be comfortable activities for LW.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        People also have different expectations of what hiking entails. I’m very much of the “nice walk up the trail looking at the nature” vibe of hiking, but I’ve been in hikes with people who hike so fast they might as well have gone to the gym for all you can actually appreciate being outside. /sidePNWrant

        1. Metadata minion*

          Yes! A group I was in picked hiking as an activity we all liked, until it became clear that they all wanted to hike very fast up mountains and I wanted to go for a long leisurely nature walk along unpaved trails and find cool bugs.

        2. Huttj*

          Heck, my family loves various hiking, and when we’re gathered and head out we ABSOLUTELY tailor our destination to how we feel. Sometimes a walk around well paved trails downtown, sometimes something flat and woodsy, sometimes checking out obsidian boulders, sometimes a 1 mile trail that goes 500 feet up.

        3. Paulina*

          As long as nobody’s actually trying to keep the group together, hiking can be ok. Race ahead, I don’t care. And it’s not like they’re all staying together while skiing.

      2. Heather*

        The expensive and elitist aspect is what OP objects to though – if everyone would be up for a hike, that seems like a good compromise.

    5. Boerengolf*

      Boerengolf (Farmer’s Golf) is a nice twist on golf, invented by a farmer who was frustrated by the exclusivity of traditional golf. It’s played in the fields around a farm (try not to hit a cow, please) and the (one) club is a stick with a clog/wooden shoe at the end.

      It’s unsympathetic to many disabilities – you’re playing in unmodufied farm fields – but it’s semi-popular in the Netherlands for teambuilding, family reunions, etc.

      I don’t know if it exists outside of Europe though.

      1. sb51*

        Frisbee golf is a lot of fun and if no one is actually any good at it, even more fun.

        There’s a lot of low-impact, low-gear but outdoors activities that might be a good fit here. And they’re more social than all whizzing down ski slopes; skiing even if everyone’s into it and at the same level is a lot of “do the thing solo and meet up at the lodge”.

        Or go somewhere with more than just “a lodge” at the base camp, where there are a ton of different athletic and non-athletic activities, so everyone is “doing their own thing” and then meeting for dinner and the telling of the days stories.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      This was my first thought. They don’t know what the OP would consider inclusive, so she should be prepared to tell them what activities she would find both team-building and inclusive for her.

      They could do a photo/video scavenger hunt — as long as the locations and challenges are accessible and varied — and then meet up virtually to see who collected the most items on the list. This might also be a way to have things that appeal to different ethnic, age, gender, economic or abled groups: ie. donate goods to a food pantry, hike to the lookout point, visit a museum or botanical garden, try a food or make a recipe you’ve never had before…

  9. Let's Just Say*

    It also seems really unfair to say that if you opt out, you have to work a full day when everyone else is off on all-expenses-paid ski trip. That feels like penalizing people who can’t or don’t want to participate, rather than offering a true alternative. Also, four full days a year is excessive for any type of team-building activity, imo.

    1. Anon and on an on*

      That’s what got me, too. Why is it, “if you don’t want to be a part of team building, you can stay in the office,” not, “if you are unable to participate in this particular activity, you have this (near) equal option.”

      1. Liz*

        Exactly. I would not be able to participate in any of that due to two very arthritic knees and a bad back. that’s an accident waiting to happen! So while I’d probably be ok with participating IN a team building activity, if its one I can’t, I wouldn’t be happy about having to work instead, as I’d feel I was being penalized.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I’d say that it’s a sign that the leadership thinks something good for work/the company takes place at these teambuilding activities. And possibly an awareness that people, if given the option, to stay home wouldn’t attend.

      Nobody is getting a day off. The people having “fun” are still having to interact with coworkers.

      I think the solution to to make the team building events actual teambuilding. Skiing is fairly solo once you get on the mountain; I can’t imagine keeping the whole group together.

      1. Pikachu*

        If leadership is aware that people wouldn’t go if they didn’t have to… doesn’t that also say something?

        1. Colette*

          That’s the thing about work – they pay you because it’s not your first choice of activity (at least not every day).

        2. Boo Radley*

          I have worked for some very deep pocketed companies with people I have liked a lot. With the exception of one activity (dune buggies in Dubai) there is not a single one I would rather do than spend my time as I choose. It’s not surprising that team building has a compulsory element to it.

      2. JustaTech*

        Downhill skiing is very solo except on the lifts or in the lodge.
        Even cross-country skiing isn’t a great activity for chatting because you’re all in a single-file line (if you’re classic skiing, which is *exactly* like using a Nordic-Trak, except outside and more fun).

        And the only “team building” I’d do on a sailing trip would be with the railing; I get so seasick.

        I get that a lot of people would genuinely enjoy the “adventure” trips (just not most people who comment here!), but it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for some balance in your “morale events” (what a major PNW employer calls these activities).

      3. Let's Just Say*

        Yes, that’s what I meant by saying the company should offer an alternative activity to people who opt out.

      4. Anon and on an on*

        Oh, yes.
        This calls back the letter from the woman whose office has golf outings for the men, but not the women, at the executive level. Their argument was “it’s just golf,” while AAM and Commentariat argued it was additional face time as well as the optics of being part of the team.
        To say golfing was not team (read clique-building) was disingenuous.
        To say that exclusionary activities are teambuilding is equally so.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          There are two separate questions here:

          1) Is it a potentially unfair advantage for those who can go, in terms of face time with the boss, etc?

          2) Is it a waste of time in the first place?

          The answer to those questions could potentially both be yes.

      5. Researcher*

        Yeah I’d be pretty miffed if my only alternative to not skiing or ice climbing was to work my normal 8 hours in the office. If OP doesn’t think she will make much headway toward getting an alternate group activity, or would be the only employee interested in the alternate activity anyway, I suggest requesting to spend the day doing a different activity that is at least “developmental” in some way, and could be interpreted as having value to the company.

        Can you set up some networking (zoom) coffees? Is there a lecture you’ve always wanted to watch online? Reading materials that would aid in your development? Perhaps doing whatever you can toward your professional goals this year that you haven’t had time for? It’s still work-y and not FUN, per se, but at least it’s not 8 hours of usual work.

      6. MissBaudelaire*

        I was going to ask this. I don’t ski, I know people who do, and I wasn’t under the impression it was something you did–with other people? Like, they’d go as a group, but it wasn’t really like say, bowling. I wouldn’t have considered skiing team building the way I would say, the Family Fued style games someone else in the thread mentioned.

        1. Allonge*

          Eh, I don’t know – in my experence in skiing you very much can go as a group, if you are on the same level more or less. Is it constant talking? No. But it can be done together and at least as newbies we were told to stick together in pods on the slopes too – you want to keep track of each other, it’s a safety thing.

          That means very little for how appropriate this is as a teambuilding activity for a diverse company, of course.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Yes. People often ski in couples or small groups of people who have the same skill level. Lots of lifts fit 2-4 people on them. So it’s not exactly solo (bad expression), but it’s not like the whole office can stick together and all talking to each other.

    3. Newly Hired*

      Agreed. We actually have a team ski day coming up, but if you don’t want to ski, you can choose to receive a $100 gift card to go shopping or do whatever you want that day.

  10. CatPerson*

    Mountaineering? Ice climbing? No! I wonder if they avoid hiring people over a certain age, or weight, or disability, because they can’t participate in physically demanding activities. Or can’t afford expensive hiking boots. And imagine the legal liability if someone is injured. That is terrible.

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      While I think you have a great point about potential ADA and age discrimination issues, the expensive hiking boot comment baffles me.

      I hike quite a bit with a varied crowd. Expensive equipment is not necessary. I hike in my regular old sneakers and so do most of my group… I carry my lunch and water in an cheap school backpack like, we all wear normal clothes like jeans and t-shirts. I think people often get caught up in the fancy gear advertised for things and think you need to actually buy all that in order to do the activity. But a lot of so-called expensive elitist activities can be quite cheap if you’re not concerned with having the best equipment.

      The issue here isn’t expense, it’s accessibility. It doesn’t matter if these activities are 100% free – they’re not accessible or comfortable to everyone, so they shouldn’t be the only type of activity ever offered. Just like if the only option were a cooking class you might be leaving out people with certain food issues, or if the only option were karaoke the hearing-impaired employee might be excluded. Nothing will include everyone, so it’s important to have variety.

      1. Observer*

        The issue here isn’t expense, it’s accessibility.

        That’s not true. Yes, accessibility is the legal issue. But, for things like skiing, you DO generally need the right gear. You can’t go skiing or ice climbing with a pair of ratty sneakers.

        1. WellRed*

          Agreed. There’s hiking and then there’s hiking and it’s always frustrating to hear about rescues (or, sadly, recoveries) of people who assume a cell phone is all they need in rugged terrain.

          1. Environmental Compliance*


            Also a shout out to the time my graduate class, upon very insistent “suggestions” by our professor, went on a bike ride that was supposed to be very chill, low key, in essence a trip to a very local marsh and then ice cream, and was specifically told to me to be less than a mile…ended up being over 5mi in the blazing afternoon sun, with the pace set by people who biked near competitively. It was horrible. I left early, sat in a alleyway, called my husband to come get me, and sat there in tears until he rescued me.

            I didn’t have a good enough bike, my clothes were not sufficient for that length of time (and I had blisters in places I didn’t know could get blisters), I didn’t pack near enough water (because I thought it was an hour, like it was stated, not the 3 hours I lasted), and the people who seemed to be having a blast and were setting the pace had very nice bikes, brought camelbaks or whatever they’re called, wore the nice padded/cooling bike gear… and this was just supposed to be a “short, relaxing” bike ride.

          2. Blackcat*

            Yeah, as someone who once was first on the scene after someone fell halfway down a mountain and broke both femurs, I am… not in favor of dangerous outdoors activities for team building purposes unless it’s like a class with trained experts and a good expert-to-novice ratio.
            And ice climbing is dangerous even for experts! That’s one of those things they tell you in a class! You can do everything right and the ice can be unpredictable and *you can die.* No. Thank. You. Skiing is not nearly so dangerous, but it still can be pretty dangerous….

            1. mrs__peel*

              I’m sure their workers’ comp insurer would have a few words to say if they knew that employees were regularly going ice climbing on company time…

              Seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen!

          3. hlyssande*

            And even very experienced people get caught in unexpected situations and die sometimes. My sister in law’s best friend unfortunately passed away several years ago on a hiking trek that she’d done multiple times without issue. It was horrible.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Yes, but even if the company pays for it all there’s still an accessibility issue. And it does sound like the company pays for the equipment, since LW mentioned the CEO arranging equipment rentals.

          1. Em*

            I suspect the company pays for skis, ski boots, and ski poles.

            I’m not small. It’s been over a decade since I’ve owned snowpants — couldn’t afford them, and now that I can, finding them in my size is not happening. (And I am, technically, a qualified telemark teacher, though not currently licensed, because see above re: snowpants.) Snowpants and jackets aren’t typically included in rental ski equipment. Most people living somewhere with winter DO have winter coats, but they might not be suitable for winter athletics.

            1. Self Employed*

              I have a winter coat for the southern end of the PNW (Humboldt County, CA) and I don’t think it’s meant for skiing: an ankle-length, double-breasted charcoal merino wool peacoat by Jones New York. (Best bargain I ever got at Ross–it was 1/3 retail price and will last me the rest of my life, plus it’s made in the USA.) Great for walking a mile to campus, though, or around San Francisco on breaks. (SF is colder and windier than Arcata.)

        3. KateM*

          Isn’t it possible to rent such stuff? My teen did snowboarding one winter, we didn’t buy anything special – his usual winter clothing, plus boots and board and whatnot rented on hill.

            1. MCL*

              Yeah, all the rentals in the world are not help if you genuinely don’t want to ski, though! (I would not be interested, personally.)

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                Exactly my point – putting the emphasis on cost just obscures the real issue, which is that LW doesn’t want to do extreme sports!

          1. Nanani*

            “Usual winter clothing” is probably not in everyone’s wardrobe.
            Coats for adults aren’t generally as versatile as kid/teen ones. Not to mention enough layers of warm and durable clothing, gloves, and so on.
            Having winter clothes for going to work on a cold day is NOT the same as having winter sport gear!

          2. WS*

            My school had a mandatory cross country skiing expedition. Three of us got out of it because the rental company didn’t have pants for girls with large hips (and I was only size 16 at the time) and we weren’t allowed to go without proper snow gear. I was extremely relieved, but it was also horribly humiliating. And one of the other girls who couldn’t go was really looking forward to it. I would hate to be doing that in the workplace.

      2. Jenna*

        I think it depends on where you’re hiking, though. I, too, hike in sneakers, but if I was trekking up a snowy mountain, I’d want snow boots (something I don’t own as a Texan.) And I think with skiing you are supposed to wear special extra warm clothes, not just jeans and a wool coat you’d throw on to drive to work.

        1. iantrovert*

          Bingo, Jenna. You’d want winter boots designed for hiking (as opposed to regular winter boots), plus something like Yaktrax or even real crampons. I live in an area with mountains and snow, and do some light hiking in summer, but between avalanche risk and the need for an additional level of safety gear (what happens if you get caught out on the mountain in a sudden storm? Freezing to death is a genuine threat!), I limit myself to 3-season adventures.
          As for clothing–“cotton kills” is the hiker aphorism. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet, and the moisture wicks heat away from your skin. Better to wear wool or synthetics that don’t have that problem. Of course, those tend to be pricier, as is outer layer clothing that is waterproofed and allows flexibility of movement… yeah. You hit the nail on the head with your comment.

      3. Not Australian*

        “I think people often get caught up in the fancy gear advertised for things”

        Umm, not necessarily. It depends where you’re walking, and how far. If you end up injured because you didn’t have the right boots, or your cheap waterproof jacket isn’t enough to protect you when the weather changes suddenly, you are going to find the rescue services particularly unsympathetic. Frankly, the sort of walking you can do *without* decent gear is best described as ‘rambling’ and where I live it would probably be from pub to pub. If you’re going anywhere off the beaten track, whatever country you’re in, you’re a fool if you don’t make sure you have the appropriate equipment.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Of course it depends where you’re going. If you’re on a multi-day trek in Death Valley what I said doesn’t apply. But if you’re going on a group day hike in the pacific northwest in summer, you don’t need a bunch of expensive gear.

          I’m not really sure what type of activity you’re describing when you talk about walking from pub to pub, since in my area you’d never find a pub on a wilderness trail. However, I’m thinking of hiking well established moderate to strenuous hilly trails in national parks, anywhere from 5 to 15 miles.

          1. kt*

            The LW specifically described black diamond hills at the downhill ski place, so we should take them at their word. And as a commenter above described, there *is* a difference in the experience depending on how practiced you are and how much gear you have.

            I went to college in southern California and did some outdoor stuff. There was for sure a difference in experience even in the math club hike between the kids who had nice hiking gear and breathable UV-protecting light shirts and pants and a Camelbak and a good hiking hat and the kids who had the shoes they wore to class and a water bottle they had to hold in their hand and no hat and even more, no experience hiking outside ever. It is worth appreciating the feelings of “I grew up in an inner city where there were no mountains and few parks and I was taught to be afraid of nature, both because of the unknown and because people like me may be in danger in places like that” plopped into contrast with these folks who clearly feel like they belong on the trail and know how to walk down a steep rocky slope without trashing their knees and aren’t afraid of being alone in the park and have hands free to take nice pictures with their nice cameras and don’t get sunburn because they knew they’d need a hat and aren’t thirsty because they knew they needed x liters of water per hour and understand altitude and blah blah blah.

            No, you don’t need expensive gear to hike 15 miles in a national park. I assembled mine from surplus and thrift stores. But you need to know what is important for comfort and safety. This is, in this context, social capital. Take your local inner-city teen from LA or Chicago or NYC and say hey kid walk 15 miles in the shoes you’ve got on. That’s not going to work out. That was the difference in my college hiking trips.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              I think we’re actually talking about the same thing. Even if someone gave LW all the equipment necessary for free, would she be comfortable doing these activities? Probably not! They can be physically, socially, and psychologically painful. There are genuine dangers involved. She feels excluded because of vast discrepancies in experience/skill level with her colleagues. Etc.

              There are tons of perfectly valid reasons why these events should not be the only team building option offered… almost none of which are solved by giving participants money or equipment. The only real solution is to offer a wider variety of activities so a wider variety of people can find something to comfortably participate in.

          2. Anna*

            There are lots and lots of people who are physically unable to walk 5 miles on flat paved road, much less hike 5-15 miles in moderate to strenuous hilly trails.

        2. Batgirl*

          I’m thinking of the time we did Ben Nevis and Snowden. Very tame hikes! But I would have turned my ankle in ordinary trainers. The only thing you can do in ordinary shoes is flat walking on footpaths, as you say – pub to pub. Mind you I think my walking boots were cheaper than what good trainers are going for!

          1. Self Employed*

            I lucked out and got some decent hiking boots at Costco–because I happened to be shopping at Costco the week they had them in my size and I knew my old ones were wearing out so it was time to buy new ones. If you have to get gear on short notice because your boss announces a “team building activity” you’ll probably end up paying full price at REI.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        There is hiking and then there is hiking. The longer the hike and the rougher the terrain, the more equipment matters. If we are talking a day hike of a few hours on a good trail, then yes, fancy equipment is largely cosmetic.

      5. EventPlannerGal*

        I think it really depends on where you are and what you’re doing. There are mountains near me that many people think are an easy day hike that they can do in trainers and jeans… they’re not, and a depressingly large number of people get into really serious trouble and nobody has any sympathy for that and Mountain Rescue has to put out these pissed-off statements telling people “DON’T TRY HIKING HERE IN TRAINERS AND JEANS”. And you really do need specific equipment to ski or ice-climb at all, more so than hiking. I like to ski when I get the chance but in crappy gear it’s miserable, IMO.

    2. WellRed*

      I suspect not only is OP the only non-white person, the makeup as a whole is on the younger and fitter side. Ice climbing, for pete’s sake!

      1. meyer lemon*

        Really, I think the list of people who couldn’t or wouldn’t want to do these activities would be much longer than the people who would. I have a fear of heights and so all the options except sailing would probably terrify me.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          I’ve never skiied, I dunno about the first time for that being in front of experienced, judge-y coworkers.

        2. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Heck, I fall squarely in their demographic and I’d rather work unpaid than go on any of these activities. And I would consider resigning before going on an ice-climbing trip.

      2. Batgirl*

        This is pretty problematic as a wider issue. How do they behave towards parents? Why is everyone so similar?

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, as soon as I read “ice climbing”, I thought “this is an employer that only wants young, able-bodied, upper-class (mostly) white people to work there and is therefore missing out on a lot of greatassembles.

        I mean, if you went out of your way to pick the most exclusionary team-building activity possible, ice-climbing would be it. And they’ve never even had the thought that it might not work for everybody! What a bunch of inconsiderate arseholes.

        1. Batgirl*

          I used to work for an industry that attracted a lot of trustafarians, and this kind of freebie was part of the deal. They didn’t get paid much (and didn’t need much thanks to mum and dad) but there was fun to be had, a CV to be padded and experience to be gained. It almost imitated adulthood.

  11. Sami*

    I have to wonder that since the CEO does all the planning, does he also do ALL the paying? Does he or the company completely pay for the “fun”? Lessons, equipment, specialized clothing? I’m particularly curious about special/necessary clothes— does everyone else already own what they need or does the company buy it all for them – to keep obviously?

    1. mf*

      This is a good point. There are probably a lot of “hidden” costs involved for employees who don’t have experience with these outdoorsy activities. If they are ambitious and eager to network, they may feel pressured to dole out the $$ for fancy ski gear.

      1. Nanani*

        Yeeep. People who have always had good quality outdoor sportwear might forget that not everyone does and that it can be both expensive and annoying at first.

  12. Amber Rose*

    Man. Something like that would be fun once in a while, but what’s wrong with like. Bowling. Or BBQ. Or… literally anything not this.

    We once did a murder mystery dinner theater, that was fun.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Never done (or until today heard of) a murder mystery dinner – how does that work?

      1. Amber Rose*

        We all sat at tables and were served a nice meal. In the meantime, actors were passing through from time to time having discussions about things and acting out little scenes, and at some point we got the announcement: murder most foul! After that we had to sort through the info we’d picked up as well as anything else we could learn by questioning the actors to figure out who the killer was and why. If you guessed it there was a prize.

        Alas, the story was quite convoluted and involved time travel so I don’t think many of us figured it out. We had some fun debating about it though and dinner was quite tasty.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            It depends on how it was set up, if they just use time travel at the end without it ever being mentioned then yes it is “cheating” but you can have a good murder mystery that lays out the clues/foundation properly for people to be able to guess time travel as part of the murderers scheme.

            1. Nobby Nobbs*

              Ah yes, the “if your big reveal is that the killer was a psychic robot, you need to establish the possibility of psychic robots earlier in the story” clause of the fairplay whodunnit!

          2. Amber Rose*

            Well, not so much time travel as a time traveler. The whole scenario was set in the past, but he kept mumbling things about iPods and his motivations had to do with trying to repair his time machine and go home. I think. It’s been a couple years, I’m a bit foggy on the details.

      2. UKDancer*

        I’ve done them with friends. When I did it we went to a hotel and there were a lot of people attending the dinner and some of them were actors. You see different playlets over the time period (one with the canapes, then different ones over different courses). Usually someone dies over the dessert course. In your groups / tables you then try and identify the murderer from the suspects and the weapon used.

        The detective then showed up (in our case he called himself Inspector Clue D’Oh). He revealed the solution and those who got it right won a box of Quality Street.

        I think the main benefit is that it doesn’t require any particular physical dexterity and isn’t too competitive. You get a nice meal out of it and have a bit of fun playing detective in the Agatha Christie mode.

        Sometimes they run them over a weekend with a longer time frame and a more involved plot and multiple deaths. I used to work as a guide at a castle and we had them fairly often. On one memorable occasion they were an actor short so I had to be found dead in the summerhouse in an evening dress.

      3. Antilles*

        When you come in, you’re handed a card with your ‘role’ and directions – who you’re playing, when you’re going to be called on, and general guidance on what to say. There are real improv actors employed by the venue who do most of the heavy lifting with the big roles; you’re basically just called to say a few lines at a specific time that’s relevant.
        The show is timed in such a way that the ‘audience participation’ happens when the waiters are cleaning plates or between courses, so you still eat normally.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          This is sort of the type of murder mystery I’ve done. Each person is given a role to play, with a character description, and given sealed envelopes to open and share at key points (similar to playing the board game Clue) but only the host knows the whole story. I’ve never been to the kind with professional actors while I’m just eating dinner watching.

          1. Amber Rose*

            I think it’s because we were on a train, so there wasn’t much room to move around for everyone.

            I really want to try their “save the train from bandits” lunch that they do, it sounds hilarious.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Ooooh, I like the idea of a murder mystery. When we get back to normal in-person stuff, I might suggest this to my boss. We usually have one team building event per year, which I generally enjoy even if the specific activity isn’t something I would usually go for. And my boss tries to change it up for variety.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It was fun! Everyone also enjoyed the trip to see a lacrosse game we organized.

        I’m looking forward to being able to do stuff like that with everyone again. We usually only do one big one a year as well (and then like, less organized pizza lunches every so often) but we weren’t able to do anything last year.

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        They’re really fun in person! I host an annual one for charity and they’re always a blast, especially if people have their characters assigned before they get there so they can do as much or as little costume/prep as they want.

        My office tried a virtual one for our Christmas party and it was much less successful, but they exist and can be fun if people are willing to be a little silly. It just got complicated trying to share clues.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          You will never, ever have an event everyone enjoys. I would love a work paid for horseback riding event, Several others in my office wouldn’t. They would love a BBQ–as a vegetarian, I wouldn’t. For this, I think OP should possibly suggest simply varying activities. One trip skiing, the other to a museum, another hiking, etc.

          1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

            This is immediately what I thought of when the able-ist, young, fit aspect of this problem is being discussed.

            I ride horses sometimes. It’s dangerous. (More dangerous when one parts company with the saddle, obviously, but you can still get a broken leg or head from being kicked while riding.) Just being around 1/2 ton prey animals prone to flight and hyper alertness is dangerous. No less dangerous than being on skis (snow or water) if you don’t know what the eff you’re doing, you’re not fit enough to stop a fall from happening, and you don’t have the gear. So, for the horsey analogy, yeah you *can* ride in sneakers and jeans, but it’s not ideal, and boy willyou have chafing in places ya didn’t know could chafe the next day!

            I wouldn’t dream of showing up to a barn or trail ride in anything but riding breeches, boots, gloves, and a helmet. But I have the gear and have had for years.

            For a company to penalize folks for not having the equipment, skills, or aptitude to do this strikes me as out of touch. A gentle reminder that not everyone wants to do this shit seems in order.

            1. Black Horse Dancing*

              I used to ride all the time- so jeans, heeled shoes or boots, helmet. That was a good safety outfit. It can be dangerous but so can anything from bike riding to driving.

        2. Another British poster*

          My mum was murdered and it would never even occurred to me to find something like this offensive.

          If you personally have lost someone to murder and would find it upsetting then I’m very sorry and of course respect that people have different opinions. If on the other hand you’ve never personally experienced homicide loss then please stop talking right now.

          I’m disabled and a disability rights advocate as part of my job so I’m very much aware of activities being potentially ableist or exclusionary but let’s not get into “but not everyone can eat sandwiches!!!” territory.

          1. Another British poster*

            Also, disabled people are a recognised protected group who are known to experience high levels of discrimination and prejudice.

            Ableism is a known problem in society.

            There’s no such thing homicide-loss-ism.

            There’s a huge difference between “this systemically discriminates against a protected class” and “one person might not enjoy this.”

        3. Cat Tree*

          I actually do know someone who was murdered, or rather I knew the murderer and the victim was an acquaintance. It was a really difficult time for me and certain situations can dredge up bad feelings, but the mere existence of murder in fiction isn’t enough to bother me. I would still enjoy a murder mystery. If the scenario coincidentally mirrored the real life murder I might feel uncomfortable and would choose to duck out early, but that would be unlikely.

          1. UKDancer*

            In my experience the mystery game scenarios are deliberately quite vague. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been country house / Agatha Christie ones and often set in the past so less likely to resemble a modern crime. There’s also very little violence or blood.

            I said above I was a body in one. I can’t remember the exact story but it was set in the 1930s and I was a German agent who was trying to steal secret submarine plans and had been killed by being mistaken for someone else who was blackmailing the local MP about his political corruption.

            I went to another that was set in the 1920s in Egypt and involved curses on tombs, stolen gold canopic jars and bank robbers hiding out disguised as jazz musicians. That was a fun one.

            They’re not renowned for being modern and up to date and hopefully shouldn’t bear much resemblance to any crimes happening now.

            1. Cat Tree*

              Yeah, fiction is meant to be entertaining and usually isn’t super realistic. It’s rare for real murders to be done in the library with the candlestick. I’m trying to stay vague here, but the murderer I knew did it to a victim of intimate partner violence. So occasionally fictional abusive relationships that escalate pretty far will be hard for me to watch even if the end result isn’t as far as murder. But it’s somewhat rare for fiction to have a storyline where a powerful person kills someone he has power over and gets away with it. It’s generally not something audiences want to see.

    3. Emily*

      An escape room. A picnic. A mild hike, even, followed by a meal that the non-hikers can also join in. Some kind of food-tasting event. So many options!

      1. Amber Rose*

        Frisbee golf! I liked that one back in the day. Pretty much nobody is that good at it or has even played it anyway, so you get to walk around a nice park and try to recapture the frisbee skills of your childhood.

      2. Yvette*

        I always wanted to do one of those sip and paint things and I don’t even drink. I realize that might not be appropriate in all situations.

        1. Funbud*

          Our office did the sip-and-paint thing. It was very enjoyable. Not everyone drank and there was no pressure to drink. It was very relaxing.

    4. Ground Control*

      I’ll probably be considered overly sensitive for this, but I wouldn’t attend a murder mystery theater because I find making light of murder insensitive and unnecessary! Like I know these are fictional crimes and there’s not actually a victim and they’re just for “fun”, but a family friend was murdered years ago and it’s so weird to me that people find entertainment in lurid details of gruesome crimes that a lot of people actually experience in real life and don’t find remotely entertaining.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I think it’s understandable that you would be upset by that, and that you wouldn’t be the only one – but I also think it’s nearly impossible to find something that could never offend or upset ANYONE. I think the key would be to have a variety of activities that are accessible and varied, and to truly make them optional.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I think this is an excellent example of Allison’s point that there’s no one-size-fits-all team building activity. If there’s four different things a year it’s no big deal to skip the one that doesn’t work for you. But if every single one was a murder mystery dinner…. I’d find that off-putting and I don’t even usually have a problem with them!

      3. Mirabel*

        A fairly close work colleague of mine was murdered many years ago. It was never solved.

        I’ve not only attended murder mystery dinners, I’ve also acted in them. They don’t bother me. Everyone is different, it’s not “weird” for folks to enjoy something you don’t.

      4. Aggretsuko*

        Unfortunately, other mysteries don’t seem to have been regarded as fascinating by the general public.

        I’m trying to think of what else one could do instead…fraud? burglary? Lost mail?

        1. mrs__peel*

          The Great Train Robbery? Let’s get all the employees out crawling around on top of a moving steam train like Sean Connery.

        2. Mirabel*

          Some of the dinner mysteries I’ve acted in DID involve things like a stolen diamond necklace instead of murder! People just love a mystery with a satisfying resolution. :)

  13. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Definately worked for a firm like that. I spent so many days sat alone in the office because the rest of the team were out hiking/walking/obstacle courses/outdoor activities designed as team building. It was a small firm, everyone else was able-bodied, fit, slim and white and they resented ‘having’ to change anything to accomodate the disabled, fat, woman who they hired (me).

    What I did have a little bit of success with was suggesting alternatives instead of saying ‘I can’t do that’ (which was being ignored and mostly sneered at – after all if I did exercise I wouldn’t be disabled and fat and could come along! /sarcasm) – so I did manage to get one ‘team building’ session to be one of those ‘learn a craft’ things – wood carving and painting were surprisingly well received!

    Even if half the blokes chose to carve a….well, no prizes for guessing.

    1. many bells down*

      I was the only girl in 7th grade woodshop class, I can absolutely guess. The boys used to make crude ones on the belt sander and brandish them at me.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I work with techies, some over 50 years old, who’ll still draw inappropriate symbols in the snow on cars/dirt on trucks etc. I do prefer they not do it in the office however!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Long, painful experience has taught me that if you say to management ‘I can’t do X’ they may think you insubordinate. But when you say ‘I can’t do X BUT here’s solutions Y and Z that I can do and that would still work!’ it looks like you’re a problem solver.

      (Wish this wasn’t the case of course)

    1. Violetta*

      Not really the point of team building… You’d come across pretty tone deaf suggesting that.

      OP, I agree with other posters above: suggest some more low key activities that you think the rest of your coworkers might enjoy – a barbecue, a cooking class, whatever.

  14. AngryOwl*


    I have nothing to add, except validation OP. I hope you’re able to speak up and they listen to you. I’d bet you’re not the only one who doesn’t love this stuff.

    1. KimmyBear*

      Yup. On my old team I left a team building activities in tears because it involved running, drinking (beer and wine were free, soda wasn’t), and staying after work. I was the only one involved that had health issues, had kids, was over 30, and didn’t drink. (The other person with these factors opted out because she was high enough that she could.) I left the team shortly after because this was the last straw.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        I know you meant ‘high’ as in ‘high enough position in the organization’, but my mind went somewhere else initially and I was giggling.

        1. Self Employed*

          When I briefly worked for a university in the 1980s, the Christmas party didn’t even have soda. The only non-alcoholic beverage was thick eggnog. I don’t even remember being able to find a glass of water.

    2. Filosofickle*

      ICE CLIMBING indeed. That’s giving me serious flashbacks. Way back when I had a stretch where all the people who wanted to date me were hard core sporty, like triathletes an marathoners. Which was extremely puzzling as I’m a couch potato! But the ice climber was always my favorite example — the one that was the absolutely most unusual and the most extreme who-does-that-and-hooboy-are-we-different person.

      1. allathian*

        Even my sporty husband would draw the line at ice climbing. He likes running, including marathons, cross-country skiing and riding a bike. I’ll ride a bike. I did grow up skiing, but I’m so fat now that I doubt I could bend over to fasten the skis on my boots. I’m even less sure I’d be able to get up again if I fell over…

  15. Mrs. Vexil*

    During my entire work life, since the late 70s, I have never, ever, ever had a Team Building Exercise that sent me back to work motivated, refreshed, and ready to do great things. More like embarassed at the earnestness, or at the tone deafness of the activities (as in the LW’s case), and resentful at falling behind in my real work. I find these things are disruptive and not in a good way.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      We did improv once and while I was prepared to hate it, I found it was actually helpful.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        While I wouldn’t want to do improv with my coworkers, I will say it is the single biggest class I’ve taken that has helped me in consulting.

        1. Salsa Verde*

          I am so interested in how you think this helped you in consulting!! Please share if you are comfortable.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            Of course! So much of improv is about going into a situation with a general goal/activity/whatever in mind, but having other people can come in and ask questions, change the discussion, change whatever they want.

            Clients that are really engaged when you’re working with them will come at you with questions you hadn’t expected, or will make connections and want to talk about something that’s still a bunch of slides away. So improv helps you stay adaptable but still focused on the throughline – project goals/savings/whatever, using their feedback to tailor the conversation to their needs while still getting your point across. Plus it gets you comfortable speaking in front of people if you aren’t already, which is something I think a lot of new analysts could use.

    2. JustaTech*

      We did a small group bowling afternoon with some folks who had come up from another of our sites (so a “fun” thing and not a “team building” thing), but it ended up being good for work because we got to know a couple of people who’d only been emails before.
      And the choice of bowling was inspired because it turned out that the quieter of the guys who’d come up was a semi-champion bowler married to a champion bowler (“She’s so much better than I am!” he kept insisting), and it really brought him out of his shell.

    3. Other Meredith*

      We usually have a team building hour at the end of a long day of training, which for years was either a drum circle or improv. The year we got a bunch of supplies were able to just sit and make mosaics while talking to our neighbors (or not) was such a relief.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The only ‘managers team building’ event I ever attended (it was to get the myriad local IT managers to work together) that was a real success was the one that introduced me to this site.

    5. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I’ve been working since the 90s and don’t like team-building exercises, but I’ve seen a lot of people who do like well designed ones. So overall, they can be done right even if I don’t feel helped by them.

  16. Richard Hershberger*

    Alison was right yesterday, when she said we would hate this: a lovely hate read!

    Two things jump out at me. The first is the recurring theme of activities the CEO enjoys. The cynic in me suspects that they are a gambit for him to enjoy these activities without paying for them. The second is that these are all to a greater or lesser extent specialized skills. Skiing is pretty mainstream, but lots of people–even wealthy white people–don’t do it. Mountaineering? As in ropes and pitons? I shudder at the safety (and liability) considerations. Sailing? As in boats with masts and sails? Are y’all out there working the rigging, or is that a yacht with a professional crew? If the former, there is boundless potential with a bunch of inexperienced sailors for hilarity and/or disaster. Ice climbing? I don’t know the first thing about it, except that I wouldn’t try it without some serious training.

    Do your co-workers just happen to be a bunch of avid skiiers/sailors/mountaineers/ice climbers, or do they bumble their way through it, going along to get along?

    Nursing a baby is a great foot in the door for suggesting something more placid. Unless your CEO is insane, he doesn’t expect you to nurse a baby while ice climbing.

    1. High Score!*

      I would ask for the time off instead to spend it with my baby. I despise team building. If you want to build the team allow people to do their jobs in an inclusive professional environment and treat them to cash bonuses and time off. The more people that push back on insanity means the less insanity there will be.

    2. Shhhh*

      Yeah, it struck me that these are like…extreme activities. “Let’s go walk a well-maintained and technically handicap accessible trail” would be problematic enough, but at least you could see how someone might not think that all the way through and fail to see the problem. But ice climbing?!?!?!?!

    3. Person from the Resume*

      You’re not the only poster to suggest the activities are a “gambit for [the CEO] to enjoy these activities without paying for them,” but realistically the CEO probably has a season pass to the nearest ski resort and takes a ski vacation every year. I doubt it’s about money for him. It’s more likely he’s scamming a day out of the office to do these things, but I really think he’s so self-absorbed and clueless that it never occurred to him other people won’t love these activities much less can’t do them.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I could maybe see a ski outing and après-ski activity once a year. It’s fairly mainstream and there are often other things one can do at a ski resort (sledding, ice skating). But man, ice climbing and mountaineering? That’s hardcore stuff. Sailing: it depends on if it’s a big yacht. But I can tell you that MOST PEOPLE who don’t regularly sail will get seasick. Not fun.

      I also think you are right about the CEO wanting others to like HIS fun activities on the company dime.

    5. MatKnifeNinja*

      There will ALWAYS be some crunchy granola mom, ice climbing with a newborn in a Maya sling, and breast feeding as she goes.

      We had one in our office, and having infants or kids got you out of nothing. You were supposed to schlep the kids along.

  17. That'sNotHowYouSpellThat*

    There is so much wrong with these supposed team building activities. They’re exclusionary and only appeal to some. You could see if coworkers have ideas for different ones and either make suggestions to the CEO or get the planning of them done by someone different each time. I’m also wondering if these team building events are mentioned to potential hires as a perk for working there. That’s terrible too because it says a lot about your corporate culture.

    1. Qwerty*

      Even if everyone could do them and wanted to do them, these aren’t really great as team building. Adventurous and possibly fun, but the few times I’ve tried skiing/snowboarding it felt pretty solo. I think I did more bonding playing the “I’ll save seats for everyone in the nice warm lodge” than on the slopes the one time I tried skiing.

      I’ve worked in an industry that used to do these types of trips, but it was an annual retreat and everyone got to choose from multiple activities, so there would be one adventurous, one medium active, and one or two low key options to cover all of their bases.

      My guess is that since the CEO is doing all the planning, he’s just thinking about what he would find fun. Getting more people to join in planning usually helps diversify the activities.

  18. Tiger*

    We used to have staff dinners twice a year. We’d pick several restaurants in town, and vote on which one to go to. People stayed until they finished eating, we socialized, and rarely talked about work. It was fun! Then we hired someone who has severe food allergies, so we stopped. It was that simple.

  19. Dust Bunny*

    This sounds obnoxious and needs to change, but I have to ask: For at least some of these activities, can you sign up for a lesson instead? I lived in Colorado when I was a kid and an annual ski trip (to Loveland, which at the time was the cheap, no-frills ski place) was pretty standard, but kids who hadn’t skied much spent the time in a beginner ski lesson. Background aside, you now have the same job as your coworkers do and you don’t have to stay at zero experience at these things forever. You don’t have to make them your regular hobbies, either, of course, but if you can get a lesson on somebody else’s tab, maybe you can still get something out of it.

    1. Shhhh*

      Maybe once or twice for some of the activities listed, sure. But every time? When it’s not actually part of their job? When physical conditions vary and not everyone is up for dangerous activities? No.

    2. Bertha*

      The OP mentioned lessons in the letter.. I’m not sure what it meant, but I guess I was assuming they were lessons .. in advance of the team building, for people who weren’t experienced with the activity? But.. that would mean EVEN MORE TIME spent on an activity for team building, which seems strange.

    3. Fieldpoppy*

      This is what I would do — I’m a super active person and I don’t actually hate group athletic things every now and again, but these are Not My Things. But I still would enjoy — as a change of pace — the opportunity to take a ski lesson or a climbing lesson.

      I agree that this is exclusive and there should be more balance and people shouldn’t have to either hurl themselves down mountains or work — but as I get older, I get more chill about not getting exercised (hee) about stuff that isn’t my bag.

    4. Anax*

      Honestly, while I agree that a lesson is absolutely the sensible thing to do, I would also say … downhill skiing *does* have some nontrivial risks, and it’s absolutely fair if OP doesn’t want to take those risks! I love skiing, but I chose that life, and I’ve seen a lot of people get badly hurt, often through no fault of their own. It would be one thing if it were a yoga class, but … I think the risk does change things here.

      1. allathian*

        A yoga class wouldn’t work for everyone. I can’t sit on the floor for more than a few seconds due to hip mobility issues. A yoga mat doesn’t help. Some people also object to yoga on religious grounds.

        1. Anax*

          I also can’t do yoga for health reasons, it’s actually medically contraindicated for me.

          I don’t mean that yoga is a great solution for everyone – I mean that people very rarely break bones or die doing yoga, and they definitely DO while skiing. (There’s even quite a few folks sharing horror stories in these comments!)

          It’s not JUST an expensive, athletic activity which people might not enjoy or be unable to do because of disability, like yoga or a 5k. That would be bad enough.

          But downhill skiing is, in addition to those problems, a dangerous extreme sport which people should only do as an uncoerced and fully informed decision. That makes this particular work activity much worse than yoga, because of the very real risk of broken bones or death.

          I love skiing, but it DOES involve sliding headfirst at 30-50 miles per hour, along the edge of cliffs, dodging unpredictable obstacles the whole way. It’s… not a very safe or low-key activity – even the beginner lessons and bunny hill often are in areas which experienced skiers also travel through, so you may get crashed into by someone out of control at automobile speeds.

    5. Mockingjay*

      Not everyone wants to learn to ski. It can be dangerous and is extremely hard on the joints and back. I got a fractured scapula during beginner lessons.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Same. I don’t care if I got free skiing lessons, I don’t want to ski, period. Same for “ice climbing” or whatever it is they’re doing. If my job doesn’t involve anything physical or athletic, don’t expect me to be an athlete. And lessons or not, it will definitely exclude everyone who’s not physically able to do that stuff.

    6. kt*

      Right now, the problem is in addition the multi-hour trip while nursing and hoping not to go indoors with COVIDy people. Having nursed a baby outdoors in winter, it’s, well, mildly awkward. I for sure wouldn’t want to go on any multi-hour adventure like this while pumping in these times.

    7. Tinker*

      I also had annual or so ski trips as a child and was at the time reasonably good at skiing. For that reason, I distinctly don’t want to ski again other than by taking it up as a regular hobby. Otherwise, what seems likely to come of that is applying the muscle memory of a 12-year-old to the knees of a 40-year-old, and I would rather not.

    8. Inigo Montoya*

      Dust Bunny, Loveland is still a no-frills place, but there is no such thing as cheap skiing!

  20. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    I just want to offer validation, OP. If I’m gonna fall down a hill and die, I want to do it for free.

  21. Violetta*

    I must be alone here but I’d love to do all this stuff while getting paid for my time! That said, I understand why the OP doesn’t, and I agree that the best way to go is to suggest that some of these activities (maybe 2 out of 4?) are replaced by something more accessible.

    1. Roscoe*

      I’m with you. You are going to pay me to do this stuff?

      But I also can understand why EVERY activity being like that would be a bit much for some.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      These are all activities that some people find fun. I would have been among them, thirty or even twenty years ago. I since have mostly aged out of this kind of stuff. But some of the employees enjoying them really isn’t the point.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Also there is the factor that most of the things on the list are fairly physically demanding. I’m not that old at all (mid thirties) and because of a bad knee injury as a kid I can’t do the skiing/mountaineering. It’s fine if one day is that, but how about picnics, board game days, bowling, frisbee golf, etc. something that everybody can participate in and isn’t as physically discriminatory.

    3. Anax*

      No, I would love these activities. I just don’t think they’re a good fit for a work trip, even if many people find them fun.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. There are many things I enjoy doing but which are not suitable for work activities. Anything that’s for a large work group needs to be as accessible and inclusive as possible and appeal to wide range of people.

        1. Anax*

          Yep. And there are some activities which are just going to be too risky, personal, or awkward to do with coworkers, even if they’re popular. Most people enjoy a nice bath, but wouldn’t want to take one with the CEO.

          This one falls into the “risky” camp for me, and potentially “awkward” too – I wouldn’t enjoy being sweaty and smelly around my coworkers, personally.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I absolutely love going to the spa, using the different heat rooms and having a massage and a manicure. I don’t want to do any of that with my colleagues because I don’t need them seeing me in a bikini and it’s in general too intimate. There’s a time and a place for everything.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah. My former boss took my team to a spa for a couple of development days. That’s the only time in my working life that I’ve ever had to share a hotel room, so I’ve mentioned it before. I didn’t jump in the pool because I’m severely allergic to chlorine, to the point that I feel nauseous if I walk past an outdoor pool. I was glad of the excuse, though, because although my boss would have understood if I’d simply decided to opt out, but because I had a medical reason, at least she didn’t start with the “I wish you could have joined us, we had so much fun” talk that she otherwise might have done. I had a manicure/pedicure instead.

              I’m from Finland where people are generally not particularly prudish about nudity, at least not in comparison with the average American. Most of us go to the sauna at least occasionally and the vast majority of non-immigrants have seen their parents naked in the sauna when they were kids. In college, I had no problem going to the sauna in mixed company, but those days are long gone, and I certainly wouldn’t want to go to the sauna in mixed company with my coworkers! I’d be pretty uncomfortable undressing in front of just my female coworkers as well.

    4. No Hero*

      I would love all these activities too! But there needs to be a middle ground. No one should feel left out on either side. With 4 of these days per year 2 could be the outdoorsy stuff and two could be arts and crafts or whatever. I like the outdoor activities because although it’s a group activity its also kind of a solo activity at the same time – the thought of an escape room or arts and crafts with my coworkers is too much togetherness for me.

    5. Ace in the Hole*

      No, you’re not alone – I’d love it too. But I agree with others that they should not make up the majority of work trips.

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      I would love most of these, for sure, but definitely not as a work event. I guess the upside is that these days sound pretty lavish so if the OP can redirect the CEO towards other activities they might get some pretty cool days out of it?

  22. Qwerty*

    Be prepared with options on alternate activities, because it is likely that they are going to ask what you think would qualify as a more inclusive activity and you might get roped into planning the next one. As (justifiably) annoyed as you are by these activities, approaching them with a collaborative tone will probably have more success. (Maybe schedule a vent session with a friend later that day where you can let out the unvarnished version of what you wanted to say?)

    I’m trying to remember the popular events my last company did that could work in covid times but all I can remember is how much everyone loved our paint-and-pour style event. People can be distanced from each other or even do it remotely from home and if the company wants to feel fancy they can always improve the quality of the wine provided.

    Even if most of your coworkers enjoy these snow days, I’m sure many of them would also be open to having some team building activities that aren’t a big adventure. Maybe send out a survey for idea suggestions?

  23. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    I hate that this shouldn’t even be a question – of COURSE you should be able to suggest that the “team building” days not involve that stupid stuff! But I also hate that SO MUCH could go wrong by making that suggestion! Ugh! I do agree with others who have suggested taking it to your manger, if there’s a level between you and the CEO, and also suggesting reasonable alternatives, but it sucks that that burden falls on you b/c people are just clueless. That’s not fair to you at all, LW, and I’m sorry! Best of luck to you, though – I’m hoping that all my “worst case scenarios” don’t materialize and you receive the support and changes you deserve!

  24. Anax*

    Anyone else worried about the company’s liability here? This sounds WAY more worrisome than a 5k, though equally onerous.

    I’ve done downhill skiing, and while it’s fun, it’s also fairly dangerous – especially for, say, inexperienced skiiers in a group setting who are peer pressured onto difficult runs that they aren’t actually prepared for. My university dorm had a ski trip, and a girl broke her femur and missed the whole spring semester. Broken bones, sprains, and torn tendons aren’t uncommon even for very experienced skiers.

    And that’s not even getting into safety equipment like helmets, which I *hope* everyone is using, but there are still plenty of skiers who don’t, and if someone doesn’t own one, is the company footing the bill for purchase or rental, or is the person expected to go without?

    All of this sounds like a worker’s comp nightmare – either the company is assuming that liability, or they’re having everyone sign waivers to take that risk upon themselves. And I’m not sure that waiver would even hold up if this is a regularly scheduled activity, during the workday, paid for by the company, which people might be pressured or ordered to attend by their manager…

    1. Ashley*

      Until someone gets hurts and files it as worker’s comp, the CEO probably isn’t worried. If LW was in HR it would be a way to suggest lower key activities but outside of that as odd as it is, bringing up liability to your manager / ceo who should know better rarely goes well when it is this obvious in my experience.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      I’m with you 100%. I recall a mention of a work trip white-water rafting where someone fell out and died. Mountaineering?? Are there guides? Or else you’re literally putting your lives into your coworker’s hands!

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “Anyone else worried about the company’s liability here? ”

      I’m not. I don’t care.

      1. Anax*

        I mean, it’s not “oh, that poor company”, just another way this is a really BAD idea.

    4. JustaTech*

      My high school had an optional ski trip where one of the more experienced students mis-read the map and accidentally went off a cliff and nearly died. He was out for weeks, and then because our school building was only barely accessible (literally just the office, one bathroom and one classroom – private school) literally the entire school had to re-arrange rooms so the poor guy could stay in the one room he could reach.

      Sure, you can get hurt crossing the street, but the activities the OP describes are much, much higher risk.

    5. SherBear*

      I work in risk management for an insurance company and this made me do a huge YIKES!!! If they are injured doing so it would 100% be a WC claim as it was a company sponsored activity. We paid mightily for someone that got quite injured doing a ziplining team building activity – it was a HUGE wake up call for the insured and they have banned such activities!

      1. Anax*

        YIKES. That was what I thought. This is a disaster waiting to happen – and if the poor person who gets hurt is, say, an inexperienced skier who was pressured into going in the first place – an “outsider” – I imagine they would face nasty social repercussions for “ruining the fun” if these activities were banned.

    6. mrs__peel*

      I’m an attorney who deals with workers’ comp stuff at times, and that was absolutely my first thought. Phew! What a bad idea.

  25. sunny-dee*

    This isn’t a race or class thing, by the way. I’m white and was raised solidly middle class, and I’ve never done any of these things … because I’m from Oklahoma, and none of those are routine activities because of our geography and weather. We did other things instead.

    That said, I’m terrified of heights, so I simply couldn’t force myself to actually do the activities – but I’d also just enjoy hitting the lodge and eating on the company dime.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I am white and middle class and I’ve never done any of these things either even though skiing and sailing are popular activities here. Maybe that’s because I’ve worked mostly for colleges and universities and there is no money to do those kinds of activities. Not that I would want to. This sounds like pure hell to me.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        One of my elementary schools had us ski for gym class, and I promptly sprained my ankle on the bunny hill. I am also white & middle-class, but being generally clumsy and also having a back injury, would have to sit most of these out. I guess no one in the group has ever gotten hurt on one of these trips. Imagine the liability if someone did. OP, you might want to bring up that concern.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Whether or not you personally have done these things isn’t and indication of if it’s a race or class thing.
      Look at the people participating in these activities, and you’ll notice that some groups are greatly under-represented.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Exactly. As noted throughout, skiing is a very expensive hobby and more so for people who are just starting out so there’s a big cost barrier. If you’re paying out of pocket (vs. trading work for discounted tickets/gear), you have to have that disposable income. Plus, you’re more likely to be into skiing if your family started you off as a kid, meaning your family had that disposable income and was inclined to spend it this way. In the areas where skiing isn’t popular (or possible), you would likely find race and class trends among the people who travel to go skiing. In fact, it probably becomes more of a discriminator because you also have the added travel and lodging costs.

        I live in the PNW and when I’ve gone skiing at the various resorts the people on the slopes are disproportionately white compared to when I’ve gone walking on trails or to parks, where the crowds are much more representative of the local demographics. There are organizations working to lower the cost barriers and make these kind of traditionally expensive activities more accessible to everyone, because of the existing race and class divides in the activities.

      2. Lana Kane*

        I follow an instagram account that centers around BIPOC outdoor enthusiasts – because we live in a world where being a BIPOC outdoorsy person is seen as weird enough that they aren’t always safe when they go do their thing. (melaninbasecamp – they also have a website)

    3. Maggie*

      Same, but from another midwest state. It wasn’t like we didnt do things, but my family would go on a beach vacation rather than skiing. No one wanted to be cold and my mom had broken her tailbone skiing in the past. Though I can totally see how it would feel like all the rich white people were doing something exclusionary if you were the odd one out. That would suck.

    4. Ryn*

      There absolutely is a class and race element to these activities — skiing, especially, is an incredibly expensive hobby. There are also numerous accounts and articles written by people of color sharing why “outdoorsiness” can feel antagonistic to people of color. There’s a CodeSwitch podcast episode called “Being ‘Outdoorsy’ When You’re Black Or Brown” that I’d recommend if you’d like to learn more about how racism plays out in “nature” spaces.

      1. Anax*

        While I agree with you that there’s a race and class element here… I think skiing is a good example of a hobby that hides its privilege, which might be an interesting case study.

        I know a number of working-class or lower-middle-class people who ski constantly, by spending all their disposable income on the hobby, getting free or discounted tickets by volunteering for ski patrol or working at a ski hill, buying used equipment, pooling resources, and doing their own equipment maintenance and repairs. Heck, my uncle rigged up a “rope pull” with an old tractor motor.

        Which is to say – like many hobbies, to a large extent, you can substitute time for money. No surprise, the “ski bums” I know are all white men who are either childless or whose children are now adults. Many work seasonal jobs like construction so their winters are free for skiing.

        I think that masks the exclusionary elements for some skiiers, because time is often a less “visible” expenditure, and since ski resort employees are often “ski bums”, they’re pretty visible; good odds that your bartender, lift operator, and the guy renting you skis are all doing it to pay for their hobby. It creates the appearance that skiing is accessible to anyone who wants it enough, when the reality is that it’s, of course, not.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          Good insights.

          We’re facing an issue right now – my wife and I make pretty good money, while one of my boy’s best friends’ families only has the father working and makes quite a bit less. And the kids want to ski together. It’s rough and we’re trying to work it out for next winter.

    5. Ann Perkins*

      I’m in Oklahoma too – it’s not a quarterly thing in my org but our leadership does an annual skiing trip. It’s definitely a thing for upper middle class here to go to New Mexico or Colorado and go skiing, maybe just not as frequently.

      I’m in leadership and am not invited on the trip since I have young children.

      CEOs like this suck.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        Wait, you’re not INVITED on the trip because you have kids? WTF? You should be invited and then you can choose to go or not.

        1. Ann Perkins*

          Yes, it’s the kind of workplace that loves to say it’s “family-oriented” but offers no paid parental leave and I’ve been thoroughly mommy-tracked while here. Pay equity is an issue too, so the skiing thing is just a symptom of the root issue. I’m job searching but my job is pretty niche so it might be a while for another opportunity to come up, unfortunately.

    6. Observer*

      It’s still a race and calls thing. The two are not mutually exclusive.

      In terms of class – it doesn’t matter where you live. Even in the PNW where these activities make a lot of sense, if you don’t have money or live in the most urban centers without easy access to the areas where you can actually ski, then you can’t do those activities. Whereas someone with money who moves into the area does have the ability to take up these sports, assuming no other issues.

      As for race, it’s worth noting that in addition to the issue I mentioned about living in areas where it’s hard to get to the areas where you can engage in these sports, in many cases people or color have good reason to stay away from these activities. There are many places where POC will be “profiled” in ways that white people are not or they will be flat out harassed. So, yes, there is ABSOLUTELY a race component involved here.

      Of course, the geographic thing is ALSO true, but that’s not the issue that the OP is describing.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*


        About 5% of my total driving time is in Vermont (for skiing and bike racing). 2/3 of the total times I’ve been pulled over for speeding were in Vermont. I”m black. Vermont is much whiter than states I drive the most in.

        That’s a geographic thing and a race thing.

      2. Thursdaysgeek*

        As a white person in the PNW, I don’t see what a POC sees. But I do want to understand more. In addition to being pulled over more, as pleaset cheap rolls describes, are there things specific to skiing that discourage POC, because of color?

        I do question the suggestion that urban people in the PNW have better access to skiing – my experience is the closer you are to a ski area, the better access you have, and many ski areas are not that close to Seattle and Portland. Of course, the less urban you are, in the PNW, the less likely there are to be many POC, so there is that.

        1. kt*

          First, I’d say that on average, every person in the PNW is closer to skiing than every person in Oklahoma. That’s the comparison I believe Observer is making. Urban people in the PNW are still hours closer by car to skiing than Oklahomans, whether they ski or not.

          Second, I think like many things it’s in large part a question of how communities function. Downhill skiing is predominantly white in the US and Europe, and also often taught or fostered in families; kids learn in lessons while parents are skiing, for instance, so… it’s just a feedback cycle. I don’t know that there is anything in downhill skiing that discourages people of color more than in other predominantly white hobbies, other than perhaps the occasional linkage between the hobby and Nordic heritage. The default is generally not welcoming, then — not unwelcoming necessarily, but there’s nothing about downhill skiing culture today in the US that puts a banner on it saying to people of color in general “hey you will be treated respectfully and consistently valued as a member of our community, look at our great track record and be confident!” There is no track record of success there.

        2. Anax*

          I’m white as well, but here are some thoughts –

          – Skiing usually involves a nontrivial drive (30+ minutes), often at night because skiing is often done in the evening after work or until sunset on weekends. This makes being pulled over more of a concern than it would be for less driving-heavy activities. This also tends to exclude those living in urban centers who may not have a car or would have a longer drive to the ski hill, who are disproportionately POC in most parts of the US.

          – Because of the drive and ticket expense, skiing is a nontrivial time investment. People are likely to be skiing for the whole evening. This tends to exclude those in caretaking roles, who can’t readily take a whole evening away from children/disabled relatives/older relatives. It also tends to exclude those who work a second-shift job or work weekends.

          – Skiing is very physical and tends to exclude those with many types of disability. For instance, someone with asthma triggered by cold air would likely have a tough time – and that’s a disability which is more likely among POC due to housing discrimination.

          – Ski equipment is fairly fitted and expects people to have certain body types. If you can’t find equipment that fits, you’ll be less safe and less comfortable. This correlates with weight, which correlates with POC populations. (And not always in ways you would expect – for instance, even as a skinny child, apparently I had fairly large lower calves. I suspect that, for instance, certain natural hairstyles like braids might not fit comfortably in a ski helmet.)

          – Ski equipment is expensive… if you don’t have a social network that skis. If you have friends and family who ski, you may be able to get second-hand equipment much more readily, do your own equipment maintenance, get recommendations on good equipment, share certain kinds of equipment. This dramatically reduces the expense.

          – Ditto, ski tickets are expensive… if you don’t have a social network that skis. If you do, you’ll have an easier time knowing when/where tickets are cheap, volunteering for ski patrol for free/discounted tickets, being hired by the ski hill, etc. Again, this dramatically reduces the expense.

          – Skiing is social. You’re expected to share your lift seat with 1-2 other people, in general, for about half the time you’re actually on the hill. If the people you came with are not readily available, or you came alone, you’re expected to sit with strangers. This would probably be stressful if you’re already feeling like an outsider, and perhaps your randomly-assigned seatmate is a bigot or jerk.

          – Skiing involves trust. It is very easy for a bad actor to hurt someone, and difficult for them to face any repercussions because many areas are sparsely populated and sparsely monitored. For instance, skiing too close to someone and crowding them into a fall, tripping them, etc. This is probably particularly scary if you’re POC and concerned about bigots, and particularly if you’re alone.

          There are probably other things, but this is what springs to mind for me.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            Good points. I’m a black guy and recall being on a lift last winter or the winter before with a guy with a ton of Trump stuff on. He was young and goofily friendly, so it wasn’t alarming. But it’s been several guys like that, I might have been.

          2. Thursdaysgeek*

            Thank you.
            Most of the skiing around me is day skiing, a full days commitment, but by the time you’re driving home, it is dark. Sometimes there are ski clubs with busses, but that is more for kids who don’t have cars, not adults.

            I see the issue with riding on the lifts with strangers! Especially in Washington or Oregon on the east side. :(

            My spouse (until this year), would plan a youth ski trip through our church, and he would make sure the kids all had ski clothes (we have boxes), would rent the skis and buy the lunches and lift tickets for any kid who didn’t come from a family that could afford it. Most of our kids are white or Hispanic, because that’s the racial makeup of the area.

        3. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “are there things specific to skiing that discourage POC, because of color?”

          – Very white marketing – happily getting way better the last few years
          – Lack of role models – this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing. And it’s frankly off-putting to not see anyone like yourself around. I’m not blaming anyone for this – but it’s a thing.
          – Overt racism – much rarer, and not as bad as, say, golf. Though there’s a fair bit of racism toward indigenous people in ski resort and trail names.

      3. meyer lemon*

        And for an activity that’s ostensibly about team cohesion, it’s really not a good look to choose activities that have been proven to exclude the one non-white, non-wealthy person on the team. Gee, I wonder why this company is overwhelmingly staffed by wealthy white people? Must just be a coincidence.

    7. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “This isn’t a race or class thing, by the way. I”

      Actually it is. yes, there are non wealthy people who alpine ski, and yes there are black people who ski a lot (I’m one of them) but there absolutely are major class and race issues in skiing and many outdoor activities.

      Oh, and yes geography is part of it too – not denying that. But that’s not the whole story. So please don’t jump up and deny race is an aspect of something unless you are very familiar with the subject. You and Oxford Comma sound like the people who respond to black people’s complaints about being pulled over for driving while black by saying “I’m white and I was pulled over!” Yes, that may be true, but it’s an exhausting and diverting response.

      I’ll end by saying the ski trips are even more exclusionary in relation to physical ability. Not good either.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        My rule of thumb with American culture is that if you can think of any way the issue at hand is about race, it is. If you can’t think of any way it can be, think some more before opening your mouth. While it is true that not everything is about race, the odds are excellent that any given thing is.

        For Britain, substitute “class.” For both, keep in mind that race and class are not orthogonal to one another.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “My rule of thumb with American culture is that if you can think of any way the issue at hand is about race, it is. If you can’t think of any way it can be, think some more before opening your mouth. While it is true that not everything is about race, the odds are excellent that any given thing is.”


      2. Oxford Comma*

        I am just sharing my own personal experience. If it came across as me downplaying the OP’s experience or yours or anyone’s I’m sorry.

        I am not interested in participating in these types of sports activities in my personal life. I am certainly not interested in combining sports with office team building. Frankly, I have found almost all forms of team building activities utterly useless. That’s all I am saying. I certainly do not understand why requiring your employees to ski or climb mountains builds a team. And as someone who is older and has some health conditions, I would find these to be abhorrent.

    8. Jenna*

      No, this is totally a race and class thing. Skiing is expensive! I am also a white lady from an upper middle class background who’s never skied, but that doesn’t mean that skiing is equally accessible to people of all income levels and backgrounds. There were (and still are) a lot of systemic barriers to people of color being able to accummulate wealth as easily as white people can (on average), which means skiing is, on average, more accessible to to white people.
      I’d also differentiate between ‘middle class’ (as you describe yourself) and ‘upper class’ in terms of who is more likely to have gone skiing. I bet the numbers are different.

    9. c_g2*

      Could you not tell a person of color from a less influential background what is or is not racially based? As a white person, you don’t have the experience to make that judgment call. It comes off as dismissive and is likely a big reason why POC feel unable to speak up about discrimination.

    10. Slumber12*

      This reads as: “As a white person, I can speak for everyone, including people of color, and say that this is not a race or class issue.” No, as a white person, you have no standing to declare that this isn’t a race or class issue! And I truly don’t understand why you think that your experience trumps the lived experience of the OP. Your experiences aren’t universal just because you’re white. Let me say that again: your experiences aren’t universal just because you’re white.

    11. LizM*

      Yes, there are white people who do not participate in these activities, but that’s not really the point. I work in the outdoor industry, and there are historic and current barriers to people of color. There are a number of studies that show that people of color are actively excluded from these activities in ways that white people are not.

  26. Bree*

    I have a disability and this sounds like such a nightmare! I’m totally fine sitting out the occasional physically demanding thing, but four times a year would definitely start to make me feel left out and like I was disadvantaged in my career progression by missing opportunities to bond with the team and CEO.

    Teambuilding/social things I have seen done at past workplaces that are more accessible and less expensive: picnic/BBQ, cooking class, scavenger hunt, gentle hike (where people bring their dogs/kids), attending a sporting event, escape room.

  27. SnowWhiteClaw*

    So someone who is disabled just couldn’t participate in ANY of these things? And has to work instead? That is incredibly awful.

  28. cncx*

    i work for a company who also likes ski team building and to add insult to injury got a workman’s comp (equivalent in my jurisdiction, where accidents are paid by private insurance held by the employer) claim denied for being “fat” so like why would i trust any kind of accident insurance situation and risk any more of my carcass skiing with those ppl?
    It’s also pretty classist too- not everyone has a ski set up, not everyone is a proficient skier, not everyone has a fat enough paycheck for Moncler. I haven’t found a good answer yet because thankfully i was on a business trip two out of the last three times and the third time was cancelled due to corona.

    I think companies that don’t budge on athletic/outdoorsy team building are in those “culture fit”= exclusion situations honestly

    1. Anax*

      Yeah, I’m a skier and I think you’re doing the sensible thing. Downhill skiing involves sliding headfirst on ice, dodging trees, cliffs, and other skiiers, while traveling as fast as a car. One mistake and you can be in an ambulance – and it might not even be YOUR mistake, if, say, someone crashes into you.

      If they’re all very proficient, you likely wouldn’t even *see* your coworkers all day – maybe on the ski lift, but it’s not uncommon for the beginner runs and very difficult runs to be on different lifts.

      I enjoy it myself, but this is risky enough that I think it has to be an uncoerced choice, and work trips … aren’t.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        This was my first thought as well. The first, last, and only time I ever skied, I got a broken femur courtesy of an out of control eight year old who barreled into me from behind. I was just cruising down the bunny slope and next thing I knew I was on a stretcher. I wouldn’t think any company would be comfortable with the potential liability.

    2. mrs__peel*

      Well said. Also, I might be slightly more inclined to participate in dangerous work activities if my employer hadn’t saddled us with a health plan that has a $5,000+ deductible.

  29. CR*

    This reminds me of when I went to a bachelorette weekend at a resort in the summer and one of the activities was hiking up a mountain. I was there to relax and drink cocktails. No thank you.

    If nothing else, having a new baby and the complications that come with nursing/pumping are a great excuse to get out of it.

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      But it’s not just about “getting out of it”.

      The OP is missing out on team building experiences, when with a little thought, her employer could provide something more inclusive where she could participate.

  30. Analog*

    It’s not just exclusionary if you’re doing *expensive* outdoor athletic activities. I felt very excluded in a previous role where we had a full day (~12ish hours) of mock-Olympics every few summers. I am not an athletic person in the slightest, but we’d all be expected to sign up for demanding athletic competitions (power lifting, track racing, basketball tournament) and drive around (in our own cars/on our own dime) to various venues attending, participating, and supporting each other. Literally nothing all day was paid for — we even had to pay for our own lunches, and then bring a dish to share at end for a potluck dinner.

    1. WellRed*

      Snort! This is so awful all I can do is laugh, especially that punch line of a last sentence.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      This is where I play the white male privilege card. Sure, I’ll sign up for basketball. But I will really, really suck at it. In part this is because I am in fact a very bad basketball player, but also because I would feel no obligation to exert myself. Given the opportunity, I will try to get on a team of like-minded coworkers, but if I find myself teamed up with some eager beaver, that is too bad for them. I understand how being white and male gives me more leeway for creative incompetence in this sort of thing.

      1. Analog*

        Nice. I’m not a dramatic person, but if I was, I could envision having some fun signing up for power lifting and mock-throwing out my back after lifting like 10 pounds, then tearfully explaining that I’d have to withdraw from all other events I committed to later in the day while I admirably cheer from the sidelines with an ice pack and a beer.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Also, driving around to various venues gives ample opportunity for getting lost and/or caught in traffic.

  31. Spearmint*

    Is there an acceptable way for a company to have things like a tradition of going on company-paid ski trips? I see how this makes the LW feel excluded, but as Alison notes nothing will make everyone feel equally included. I grew up in the mountain west and many companies, especially more local ones, did things like ski or hiking trips from time to time, and I always thought it was cool (though I’ve never worked for such a company). It seems like an interesting part of their culture that made them more than just soulless cube farms where you’re forced into being a bland office drone. No one should be forced to attend such outings, but I think having them is great.

    And I would say the same for things I don’t like myself. I’m very introverted but I don’t necessarily resent a company with a tradition of large parties a few times a year or frequent happy hours as long as I’m not forced to go.

    1. Spearmint*

      That said I agree with Allison that having more variety in these events is probably better.

    2. KHB*

      I think they could work if they were interspersed with other activities that the non-skiers can participate in. No activity is suitable for everyone, and you could imagine a hypothetical person that couldn’t participate in any combination of activities, but if you have a mix of activities that offers something for everyone among the employees you actually have, I think that’s probably OK.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        This. You go to a place where the skiing is good, but also people can take a nice walk or relax around somewhere including indoors. Maybe a spa in the same place.

    3. Observer*

      There are two things here that make a difference. One is that this is happening *4 TIMES A YEAR*. That is a LOT. If they did this twice a year, and did something else twice a year, that would be very different.

      Also, they are choosing the most expensive outdoor activities, and ones that require the most skill. Downhill skiing cannot realistically be safely done by non-skiiers, and even aside from Moncler jackets, you do need some fairly expensive gear. Hiking, on the other hand, is not open to everyone (nothing is), but you generally don’t NEED expensive equipment and you don’t need any real level of skill, which means that far more people can do this than can ski.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        And also the activities that require the most athleticism and physical risk. I’m pretty fit and flexible, but there is no way in the world that I would ever go skiing or (FFS) ice climbing, because I prefer not to break any limbs and also to remain alive.

    4. mrs__peel*

      A company could certainly offer ski passes or something to employees to wanted to go, as a perk (and maybe something of equivalent value for the non-outdoorsy). That would be much different from making it a semi-compulsory team building event on company time.

      1. mrs__peel*

        Forgot to add– my employer does something like this, where they offer employees and their families free tickets to a local amusement park or the zoo on a certain day. It’s purely optional for people who want to go, and it takes place on weekends rather than during office hours. It’s not for team building purposes, but it is a generally nice thing for morale.

    5. LizM*

      I don’t think ski trips are in and of themselves bad, but if that’s all you’re doing, it means that you’re excluding people who don’t ski. So if you’re calling it team building, you’re sending a very clear message about who you consider “on the team.”

      It’s not as extreme, but I look at the same way I look at our monthly lunches (pre-COVID). I don’t eat meat, so I’m probably going to opt out of the BBQ place where literally nothing on the menu is vegetarian (even all the side vegetables have bacon). Once or twice a year, that’s fine, people like smoked meat. But if they picked somewhere I can’t eat every month, I’d start to wonder if they really wanted me there at all.

      1. Freya*

        Yeah, like once, my workplace did a team building thing at a go-karting place. It literally never occurred to anyone that I might be too short to fit the karts, but… We turned up, the staff looked at me in the regular karts and went and found a booster seat that allowed me to push the pedals, even if I couldn’t push them all the way. That’s how I found out that the image I project is quite a bit taller than I actually am! :-P

        And then the next thing we went to was accessible for both me and the very large gentleman who had chosen to sit the go-karting out. That’s the thing with regular stuff like that, it’s easier to do things that everyone is happy with if no one is sitting them *all* out. My observation is that on average, if people can do at least half of them, they’re happy because they know they can participate in *something*. Variety of type of thing makes that much much easier.

  32. SnowboarderChick*

    In my field is not uncommon to have company ski trips so I can talk a little about those though I can’t comment on the other activities. These aren’t huge corporations but 150-200 people mark. My partner is in the same industry and that’s their annual global retreat – they fly people from all over the world for it.

    It’s… Not as expensive as it would seem. I was part of the ski team at my college and know that once you have a large group of people the packages for 3-4 day ski, lodging and transport is really not that much if you’re going at the start or end of season. In my country at least it would also be tax deductible.

    I have to say I would be really pissed off to lose what was a massive perk because some people don’t love it. Having said that my company was extremely inclusive: for people with no experience and equipment they included free lessons and rentals. If you didn’t want to partake in the sport they would give you spa packages instead and they were fairly flexible in facilitating people going and leaving early if needed. Obviously seems to be a different scenario to what OP is describing since this was ONE event out of many we had throughout the year.

    If I had to hazard a guess based on my experience, places that do those types of activities tend to have a very specific culture and voicing any worries tends to be read as negativity and comes at considerable cost of capital. It sucks and I want to make clear that just because I personally enjoyed the perk I don’t think OP should be punished for voicing what is a very legitimate concern but that she should account for the fact that there could be blow black. To make extra clear, I’m not white and don’t come from a wealthy background and am in a very white, male dominated, privileged industry and I have experienced situations where while there was no ‘direct’ consequence to voicing a concern, there was definitely a shift in ‘mood’ after it happened.

    Is sucks.

    1. Boof*

      I do like including a spa package! Most of the lodges are fancy and have lots of nice things, so hopefully those who don’t want to / can’t ski have something fun and get to still network

      1. SnowboarderChick**

        It was a nice touch for sure, and they always made a point of spreading the senior staff a little bit – some would ski, some would stay in the spa, they had all company dinners and breakfasts as well. One of the partners was a woman with a young kid and she was very clear in telling people she would be joining for two days and one night only and anyone who wished to leave early or arrive late was very welcome to join her.

        There was still stuff that happened within the trips that was… Let’s say not 100% above board (‘fraternizing’, drugs, intoxication in general) but it’s unfortunately pretty common in the industry and it was very much not ok in the open so it was more a case of you knew you knew, if you didn’t you’d never noticed any difference.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Expense: You have established that it doesn’t cost the company as much as one might imagine. Fair enough. But this doesn’t change the expense of an individual deciding to take up the hobby. No, you don’t need to be wealthy, but it helps. It is the difference between this being something you do versus how you use your disposable income.

      Culture: Were I in this situation, I would go, wave to people as they went out the door, and sit in the lodge and read a book. And I would be fine with that. All things considered I would prefer to sleep in my own bed, but sitting and reading is far from the worst way to spend a day. At least that is what I would have done when I was single. It is tougher now that I have a wife and kids. At the very least it would place a burden on my wife. If we are talking about during the school week, I have to plan carefully to do non-routine stuff that I actually want to do. Taking off for a few days is non-trivial. In any case, my attendance would be entirely about appearances, not because I wanted to be there or had any illusion that it served any purpose apart from office politics.

      1. SnowboarderChick**

        I’m not totally sure how to answer you here. There are a ton of work activities that are not fun to do and you simply have to engage with. Considering joining the trip was 100% optional (with days off given as an alternative if you weren’t able to or were unwilling to join) and 100% paid for I’m struggling to see how this particular company could have improved the situation. In terms of cost, indeed, it is an expensive hobby. I myself only got into it because I won an all expenses paid holiday to a resort otherwise it’d have never happened. Having said I’m not really sure what costs are involved in joining a work trip when they are paying for all transport, accommodation, clothing, lift passes, meals and for those who need it equipment and clothing rental plus lessons. I think the company even offered to pay for dog kennels…

        Still not everyone went, most people loved it and it was one my favourite things about working there but I guess someone somewhere will always find a reason to be pressed about something.

        1. aebhel*

          Right, but you’re talking about an optional work perk, where people who don’t want to participate can take time off. That’s not relevant to the OP’s situation.

  33. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Agreed – I love to hike with my spouse and kids. Maybe if the work event was a family hike we’d consider joining in. Hiking also isn’t as expensive to do, but it can still depending on the path chosen be physically demanding.

    But the other things that OP mentions are both very physically demanding and expensive to do, so by always doing those you are going to naturally exclude those that didn’t grow up with all that disposable income. For the record, I also think golf falls into this category as well (regardless of gender). It’s just a bad look to always pick something as a company group activity day that is by its nature going to discriminate and leave out some of your workforce.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Adding an idea list.

      1. Picnic or BBQ
      2. Frisbee Golf
      3. Low key hike (around me all trails are rated by difficulty)
      4. Board game day/afternoon (where everybody brings their favorite game)
      5. Bowling (even if you don’t bowl you can hang out with the group easily)
      6. Scavenger Hunt
      7. Museum Day

      The key to most of these is that they are varied enough that you could change them up and include more people. Quite a few are also disability friendly.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Museum Day: I would enjoy this, particularly if I got to pick the museum. I suspect I would be in the minority, however.

        1. UKDancer*

          Museums are really good for team outings I’ve found.

          For one thing a lot of them are free in London and for another the big ones are accessible and you can walk as much or as little as you like. We did a couple of very successful outings in my last company at the Science Museum. People wandered around (individually or in small groups) then we met up for tea and cakes afterwards and compared notes. Then those who wanted to do so went on to the pub. Quite fun and very low stress.

      2. Anax*

        I like this list a lot. Some of the ones which look disability-friendly wouldn’t work for me – like the picnic – but there’s quite a few I would enjoy.

        I also think that activities which DON’T take a whole day are nice – less of an investment if things are awkward, and a break from normal work!

        My workplace did lunch potlucks every couple months which were wonderful, and I miss them, even if I wasn’t very chatty in the moment. We’ve been doing ten-minute games on our weekly zoom calls, and while those are often pretty dorky, they’re fun.

  34. Heather*

    Given the demographic you are dealing with, they might go with art tours or a whiskey or wine tasting? Round our way, you can do distillery tours in non Covid times.

    You may want to hold the alcohol ones if you prefer not to drink while breastfeeding, and if you have Muslim colleagues, but if you pick something that the CEO or another senior person enjoys doing, you may pick up more support for a change.

  35. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    I can’t tell if the OP genuinely wants to spend time with the co-workers and thus would like them to consider different kinds of outings, or if they really just want to take a paid day off instead of having to work in order to avoid strenuous terrifying nonsense (ICE CLIMBING?????).

    If it’s more the latter, or the culture isn’t likely to bend to include less crazy stuff (which it sounds like it won’t because the CEO apparently LOVES this stuff), could OP express to HR or whomever that this kind of activity is impossible for them right now (next ‘snow day’) and also generally ableist/classist, and ask that the company change the rule and grant a PTO day for anyone who can’t or chooses not to participate?

    I don’t see that coming across as a killjoy – you’re not squashing anyone else’s ICE CLIMBING???? joy, but definitely at some point, this company is going to have to address these issues and change that policy.

    1. mrs__peel*

      I would just like to join you in saying ICE CLIMBING??????? My eyebrows just about shot off my face when I read that.

  36. CoveredInBees*

    We had something like this at a previous employer with two caveats that helped a lot:
    1) They were twice a year
    2) Employees voted on what to do from two lists. The first list would be the ‘out of town list’ that was a day trip to do things similar to what OP described. The second was ‘local’ a group lunch at a restaurant and then some sort of activity like bowling or pedicures. The activities that got the most votes from each list were the ones offered to the employees. This usually led to a pretty even split between each.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think that’s a great idea at most places; OP has the additional problem, because they’ve cultivated such a homogeneous bunch, that they would all vote for skiing.

  37. Student Affairs Sally*

    We did a fair amount of team-building events in my last job, and they were all a lot of fun and much more inclusive than this (as well as cheaper for the organization). Things like escape rooms, pottery painting, trivia, board game socials, and potluck lunches were all really popular. My personal favorite thing we did was at Christmastime – we went to an old-fashioned candy shop where they still make candy canes by hand. We got lunch (they also had a lunch counter), watched a candy cane-making demo, and got a free handmade candy cane (waaaaaay better than the store-bought mass produced ones). And we also got to support a small local business! Obviously something like this wouldn’t be available everywhere (or during a pandemic), but it’s worth looking into cool regional things like this that are more accessible.

    1. Sleepy*

      There’s actually plenty of virtual trivia happening right now, and it’s fun! For a fraction of the cost of a ski trip, the boss could hire someone to design a custom trivia night for the group.

    2. cleo*

      My brother works in tech and his company offered a choice of several different virtual team building things this past year. The ones I remember were a virtual escape room and a virtual chocolate tasting (box of fancy chocolates delivered to everyone’s home and a zoom call with the chocolate taster).

      My brother enjoyed the virtual escape room and ended up doing one for his kid’s 12th birthday party. (They escaped with 12 seconds to spare. My nibbling loved it).

  38. Nicotene*

    Keep in mind, part of the calculation for your CEO here is probably that this way they can take vacations they want to take and write them off on their taxes as a business expense. For that reason, they may not care how you feel about the trips. This seems to fit with a CEO personally planning the carpool etc, which doesn’t sound like something a professional would take on except that it’s fun for them.

  39. Sleepy*

    Do you know what other interests your coworkers have? It may be easier to build pressure on your boss for other suggestions if you can throw out something that others will bandwagon onto.

    I have one coworker I like to pass stuff like this by beforehand and see if he’d support me before I suggest it to the group—can you find someone you can similarly count on?

  40. foolofgrace*

    You are not alone! When I was a contractor at Big Multinational Corporation, our manager tried to put together team-building exercises. Bowling? Actually, I walk with a cane. Can’t bowl? Let’s do ice skating! Let’s volunteer with Habitat for Humanity! I really didn’t want to do any team-building activities — for one thing, I just want to do my job and go home; for another, as an hourly contractor, to take a day off to do these things means I’d lose a day’s pay. If I didn’t do the activity, I’d have to work. Why do people assume that other people are interested in this kind of thing?

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah I honestly really enjoy workplaces which just focus on the work. The occasional catered lunch or training day is usually plenty of time for coworkers to vibe, even in my field of teaching where we are in separate rooms most of the time. My wry, working-class grin appears internally whenever people behave as though work is the place where you find lifelong friendships or personal passion. For most of us, even if we love our work, it’s where we go to get money.

  41. lunchtime caller*

    I’m going to be real and say that if you’re the only non-white person in a group that supposedly prides itself so much on being progressive and helping (but just accidentally manages to almost never hire non-white people?) then I would not bring it up unless you have a suggested alternative or two and even then, would have a very light touch about it. Alison already noted the many issues likely to arise from this if management is weirdly protective over their outings, but one thing I think she skipped that I’m familiar with myself is how quick white people are to see the one POC in the room as a problem. As someone who just “doesn’t get” their company culture. As someone who is “always causing issues” but of course “it has nothing to do with race.” Sorry, I know it’s a bummer thing to bring up and I would love to be wrong! But it’s a dynamic that I think is present more often than it’s not and so I would tread carefully, especially if you don’t have any coworkers behind you.

    1. Observer*

      Unfortunately, I think you are right. And note that someone here has already noted that they would be upset with the OP if she caused them to lose such a perk.

      So, there’s that.

      1. SnowboarderChick**

        I think you’re referring to my post. Yup deffo would be upset to lose the perk – though again worth noting my company was A LOT more inclusive in terms of activities throughout the year skiing was the one big, outlier event.

        Having said that, my company was not diverse in terms of ethnicity and that 100% caused problems for me when I tried to raise other concerns in relation to what we were doing and the reaction was exactly as described: ‘you don’t get it’, ‘why are you being difficult’, etc. So yeah, OP is in a difficult position which really sucks but the capital cost of going against that kind of culture is really high and I think it would be really naive to ignore that.

        This kinda reminds me of the dog friendly post that was here a while back – someone who was allergic to dogs was hired to a very dog-friendly office and everyone was really upset to lose the perk.

        1. Nicotene*

          Maybe OP can have more luck pushing back on the “if you don’t come you have to work in the office that day” versus the “let’s do more inclusive activities instead” side. That might seem less threatening to the established dynamic. I’m sad to say that though. Sorry OP :(

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, accurate. I’m the only Jewish person at my org and it’s a problem that I need time off for Jewish holidays, even though I always work in the run-up to Christmas and Thanksgiving because I don’t need it off.

      1. Freya*

        That kind of attitude from workplaces bugs me. One of the reasons I love my current workplace is that they’re quite happy for me to work more around school holidays when my coworkers are needing to make childcare arrangements, and then take holidays when *I* want them! Religious holidays such as Christmas or Rosh Hashanah should be no different

    3. Not gonna watch Wandavision*

      Yes agree with lunchtime caller here. OP, trust your gut on this. And white people reading this, if you consider yourself an “ally” then speak up in situations like this so the onus isn’t always on Black people and other POC. We are always treated more harshly for bringing “problems” up.

  42. IndustriousLabRat*

    This is Big Yikes.

    I grew up skiing and gave it up for two reasons: One, the obvious expense. But even more importantly, It. Is. Dangerous. If I were to get injured, I’d be out of work. Period. No crutches are allowed on the factory floor, and I can’t work remotely. It’s simply too much of a risk. And don’t get me started on sailing. I also grew up sailing Hobie cats, and finally sold mine a couple years back for the same reasons that I gave up skiing. Kept a dinghy for quiet breezy days on the local pond, but a fast, powerful sailboat is arguably as dangerous as skiing, if not moreso- Add open water and other boat traffic for added danger.

    Now, I have no idea if Workmens’ Comp would cover a voluntary-but-not-really team building ski trip. Are they having employees sign some sort of waiver of liability? Are they offering in writing to still pay your full salary and medical co-pays if you get injured at work-not-work? Funding of childcare assistance while you’re laid up?! This is nuts! I’ve got permanent damage to my MCL from a ski accident 25 years ago, not even a bad fall, just a twist in JUST the wrong direction, and a stubbornly still-painful rotator cuff injury from a 10 year old sailing accident. HECK TO THE NO I would not let an employer dictate how or when I’d participate in high risk sports… whatever happened to taking the office out for some lazy put-putt golf on a sunny Friday afternoon?! Sheesh. Is there any way you can inquire with HR about what the company will accept in terms of liability for these events? It might be enough to jolt them out of the la la loopy land they live in!

    Good luck!

    1. RC Rascal*

      Sonny Bono was an experienced skiier and he died skiing. Jill Kinmont was paralyzed in the Olympic Trials in a skiing accident. Natasha Richardson fell and hit her head and died . This was on the bunny slope.

      Very dangerous sport.

    2. Kara S*

      I agree that this opens the company up to pretty major liability issues. My dad is very experienced with skiing and and has gotten injuries from the most basic things like falling and putting his hand out wrong or someone else crashing into him. The only time I ever got a concussion in my life was while snowboarding and I was wearing a helmet AND fell when I was barely moving at the bottom of the hill to get in line for the chair lift. There wasn’t even a slope.

      I could see a company ski retreat happening maybe once a year with activities available for those who aren’t interested (ex spa, drinking hot chocolate or wine in the lodge, hot tub, swimming, snowshoeing, even cross country skiing which is basically walking). This would let the people who love the activity keep doing it while providing low-level yet still fun activities for everyone else.

    3. mrs__peel*

      My two cents as a lawyer is that it would be very likely covered under workers’ comp and any waivers would be found invalid.

    4. SnowboarderChick**

      Hey my company had a yearly ski trip. This might change for the US since where I’m from healthcare is free, though the trip was abroad the whole attitude to health-care and employment support is very different.

      We were given pretty comprehensive insurance paid for by the company and helmets were mandatory to partake, you could take your own otherwise they paid for your rentals. They were extremely strict about it too and you’d be in shit if someone saw you in the slopes without a helmet. I had a bad snowboarding accident that require surgery and 5 days in hospital so I was pretty through in reading the documentation and it was the kind of coverage I’d typically have purchased myself.

      We did have a couple of injuries, I believe one broken collarbone and one wrist. They were treated, any out of pocket expense was covered by the company and they were offered a few days off and given accommodation at work like any other injury. And of course if you didn’t feel safe or didn’t want to take the risk skiing/boarding the company offered spa packages as an alternative so you could still enjoy the resorts.

      I only add this not to say that everyone should it but because I got quite lucky with a workplace that was excellent in managing this trip – and I leave this here as an indication that it is something possible to do.

  43. Anonymouse*

    If you can’t find other backers from your coworkers at least you now have a good excuse to bring this up due to your maternity leave. The idea that those stay behind don’t get a day off is lame. But if you’re office/boss is difficult maybe you can use your maternity leave as leverage – needing PTO to be home with your baby. Hopefully that could help open the door for a discussion on more options. If they’re reasonable you might need to throw in the maternity card, but at least you have that in your back pocket.

  44. Sled Dog Mama*

    Oh OP, I feel your pain. All of the activities your mention are things my husband loves and I just don’t.
    I have to agree with several commenters above, this does not sound as much like team building as making people feel good about the company.

  45. singlemaltgirl*

    if you’re the only person of colour and you’re the only one from a poor/non advantaged background, you can, as alison say, expend your social capital here but if you like the job, the pay, the compensation, and would find it difficult to find comparable elsewhere, i’d suck it up. that’s just me. and before anyone pipes up, you have no idea what people of colour suck up on a daily basis so don’t come at me.

    chances are, from what you’ve said, you’re going to be the one who is ruining everyone else’s ‘fun’ and the person of colour who represents all people of colour and why this company shouldn’t hire people of colour in future b/c you’re just not a ‘fit’ so none of them would be either. of course, no one will say that or hint at it, but it’s a likely outcome and why so many white spaces…stay white. of course, you’re not responsible for every person of colour ever. but i think you know what i’m speaking of.

    i get that it feels unfair. is there another way you can frame this in your mind without putting your own future/career within the org, at risk? or if you do decide to expend the social capital, do you have a plan for a stalled career in the org or potentially being excluded or terminated at some point for ‘other reasons’ eventually? or a less than pleasant work environment going forward for having raised the issue? if you’ve considered all those eventualities, i wish you luck.

    1. school of hard knowcs*

      “before anyone pipes up, you have no idea what people of colour suck up on a daily basis so don’t come at me.” I truly don’t. As a white woman, I know, I did not ‘expend capital’ on a lot of daily little things, that were wrong. It is fair to say I had a lot of capital to use. Every person has to decide for themselves what is of value and how much you will expend on it. I believe that I probably wouldn’t bother.
      I would more likely listen to the CEO and employees and find the thing they talk about that would be a reasonable compromise. Then, (because I can be sneaky) I would have a ‘aha’ moment and say ‘wouldn’t that make a great team building exercise’. Then it isn’t about taking something away, but adding something cool. It’s kind of like handing a toddler a new toy while whisking away want you don’t want them to have. For your own sanity, make choice and then accept it …like you accept rush hour traffic.

  46. lost academic*

    I’ve just come back from my second maternity leave and I will say that I think the majority of people, and thus company structures, simply do not understand the commitment it takes to continue nursing a baby. After the “newness” wears off for people outside your immediate family, they quickly forget that the pumping Just Never Ends for a lot of people who want to be committed to nursing for a year. The logistics around doing so are phenomenal.

  47. Boof*

    Some thoughts OP
    — I would avoid saying to NEVER have another snow day again for a few reasons; some people, the CEO in particular, really enjoy them, and it’s impossible to pick one activity that everyone will always enjoy. So I think it’s very reasonable to have these activities occasionally. If it is the out of pocket cost that is prohibitive (I wasn’t sure how much the CEO is covering) I think it’s worth bringing up – I believe most of the needed gear can be rented, and if you are in snow country you have snow clothes otherwise – I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to have a new ski jacket to do it. I do thing it would be worth asking for a package that includes ski lessions though – good lodges offer a range of classes and I bet everyone would benefit from them!
    — I agree that should not be the ONLY activity though. If your culture is well meaning and tries to do the right thing, having a baby is a great time to say “I am not really up for skiing – can we do X instead?” Or heck, just ask for the day off if that’s what you’d prefer, I’d be surprised if well meaning folks really denied that! (in fact, expensive but covered teambuilding field trip vs day off sounds like a reasonable trade – the main loss is the networking so it’d be nice if they rotated activities though)

  48. queen b*

    Sending you support OP – I sprained my knees in a skiing accident (both of them lol) and I would absolutely LOATHE these activities. I’m very much an indoor cat! Might I recommend a coffee and chocolate tasting from bean box? We did that and it went over pretty well. It’s not… skiing in Moncler but it’s still a fun bonding activity.

  49. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    I help coordinate things like this, and IF OP wants here is a list of alternate group activities they could bring as an alternate to their manager (because I think having alternate suggestions will strengthen their case):

    – Museum/Garden/Walking tour trip
    -Virtual Cabaret night/talent show
    -Pizza/sushi/food creation classes
    – Art creation classes (painting, sculpture, pottery, etc)
    -Selfie contest: employees use home supplies to recreate famous works of art
    – Employees recreate their favorite album cover
    -Virtual Block Party
    – Virtual escape room
    – Pub trivia
    – virtual pet fashion show

    Any other ideas??

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Not that these aren’t good suggestions in general, but are they really alternatives to skiing and sailing? I think the OP needs to be careful to come up with less sporty but equally fun and exciting suggestions otherwise she will appear to be from a different planet and wholly out of touch with her company’s culture.

      I haven’t spent a lot of time in the OP’s area, but I would guess that there are some alternatives that are on par with the current activities.

      1. Mortimer*

        Ya, telling a bunch of people who adore skiing to suck it up and go to a virtual pet fashion show where you dress up cats in stupid lace tutus or whatever, that’s going to end real well for OP.

    2. Lizy*

      hold the phone – virtual escape rooms????? is that a thing????

      There are 2 things that I miss from OldCity – the restaurants and the escape rooms

      1. Colette*

        Yes, they are a thing. My Girl Guide travel group is doing a lot of fundraising using our virtual escape rooms.

    3. Trilby*

      Pizza creation class? Her coworkers would be so pissed if they didn’t get their quarterly ski trip and were told they were going to have a zoom where people held their pets up like kindergartners. Wow. She is being really selfish, if everyone else loves the trips, suck it up and go sit in the lodge and enjoy yourself.

      1. Self Employed*

        Sitting in the lodge is not an option due to COVID and also she’s nursing. In fact, the lodges in California aren’t even letting people hang out–just get coffee and warm up or something quick like that. Don’t know what WA/OR are doing.

        1. Mortimer*

          Covid is not going to last forever and the pandemic is likely to be over by this summer, by next ski season the lodge will likely be going full steam ahead, non-skiiers can have a perfectly good time in the lodge (that’s why its there). If someone told me that a pizza creation class was a substitute for a ski holiday i’d laugh them out of the room

  50. Tracy*

    So as the office admin, there are times where I help the plant director plan this sort of thing for them and their direct reports. One big challenge is that it’s truly difficult to find an activity that is appropriate at all. There have been activities like laser tag, bowling, and escape room group outings for them during an afternoon and a nice dinner later. I will often try to suggest something “different” like going to a local amusement park or attending a movie or something equally generic and the ideas usually get shot down as too casual or silly.

    I would suggest that the employee go to her manager and try to have an honest calm discussion about this. It IS supposed to be seen as a perk, right? It might help a lot if she bring suggestions for activities that she would like. If it’s truly just an excuse for the day off by the CEO, then I would press to have the day off too. Fair is fair.

  51. agnes*

    I like the suggestion to expand the options and I think the CEO might go for that as well if you explain it as a way to learn different kinds of thing about each other. Going to a sporting or cultural event, having dinner at a nice restaurant, doing an escape room, getting a behind the scenes tour at a zoo or a museum, playing board games, going on a boat ride that SOMEBODY else sails or drives—-all these give you other kinds of opportunities to get to know people. It sounds like your CEO likes these activities, but really aren’t you spending most of your day focused on just doing your own thing?

  52. The Tin Man*

    Maybe phrase it as how putting a limit on it now prevents a future hire from being the “reason” they only go skiing once per year now? What happens if they hire someone who can’t physically do the fun?

    If each quarterly event is like this and most people genuinely like it that means hiring Kyle with the wheelchair would be the sole reason they only have one ski weekend per year instead of four. That gets even worse if it’s a less visible disability because at least being in a wheelchair would be a “valid” excuse to most reasonable people. And it’s even worse still if it’s just someone who is not up to that physical fitness capability or maybe doesn’t want to disclose a physical limitation at work because it’s not relevant to their job.

    I just think of the person hired to the dog-friendly office with a dog allergy who became the “reason” the dogs were taken away.

  53. Khatul Madame*

    I agree that these team-building activities are exclusionary and classist, but I also recognize that some people are reluctant to make waves and risk their reputation and relationships. OP could suggest a non-physical but “classy” (eyeroll) activity like artisan coffee or local wine tasting, painting, or cooking classes. OP can drink non-alcoholic wine if nursing a factor, or decaf.
    This way she can at least be seen participating in team-building, and be paid for it.

  54. Girasol*

    One problem with such activities is that they give the more competitive members of the organization a chance to one-up one another, increasing office competition, which decreases a sense of collaboration (teamwork). If the OP’s boss were building a sense of teamwork – increasing everyone’s understanding and appreciation of one another’s differing talents and helping the team maximize the contributions of every team member – then OP would not be left out. That would defeat the purpose. A boondoggle can be fun for some but it’s nearly the opposite of team building. I have no idea how OP can express that diplomatically to the boss though. I wish I’d had the words to express that to several of mine.

  55. Beatrice Christmas*

    This could be tricky to navigate. Do you want to spend whatever capital you have on this? I think of the first year I submitted my dietary restrictions for the company retreat and there were dozens of complaints about the dinner options. I was told I should have just brought my own food. And we’ve gotten company branded clothing…that didn’t fit anyone with larger bodies (incl. me). I’ve learned that saying anything, even at a company that calls itself inclusive, has a cost. So I decided I’d put my foot down on the food ( it’s a three day annual trip, I am not bringing my own food! ), but the clothes I give to my kids or to charity.

  56. KWu*

    Alison’s wording is more workable that I would’ve come up with on my own, but for me, I don’t think being excluded 4 days a year is worth the capital you’d be spending. This seems to me to be one of those things where if the people with power, who are involved, aren’t self-aware enough to recognize it already, I’m skeptical it’s going to make much of a difference to bring it up. I think it is extremely, extremely rare for someone with power to appreciate people pointing out their blind spots. How does the CEO take negative feedback generally? Maybe if there’s something the CEO has said himself is a goal for him or for recruiting that you can tie it back into, so you still come across as “helping” rather than being thought of as sour grapes.

    Also, anyone else think that maybe the CEO does understand that not everyone would be that excited about these outings, because why ask for a work shift rather than just give people the option to have the day off instead?

  57. Ann O'Nemity*

    Small company, CEO actively involved in event planning, almost everyone goes… I wonder if this is one of those cultural traditions that started in the early days of the company but increasingly doesn’t make sense as the company grows and adds more diverse staff members.

    It reminds me a of a lot of startups I’ve known, that begin with a skeleton staff of very like-minded people who work hard and play harder together. Founder/CEO is into mountaineering, hires their friends and people with similar interests, establishes quarterly mountaineering trips, everyone loves it. But over time, the company grows and starts realizing the benefits of hiring for skills and hiring for diversity. Eventually those moutaineering trips need to be replaced with something more inclusive, and it sounds like that’s where the OP’s company in.

    What sucks for the OP is that it’s not going to be easy being the first person to ask for a change! I like Alison and a lot of the commenters suggestions to offer suggestions for alternative activities. Instead of saying, “let’s nix ALL of these Feats of Expensive Athleticism,” it may be way easier to suggest a change of pace for ONE of them.

    1. Batgirl*

      I wonder if it would make sense for OP to sit and mull on this until it becomes a problem for a significant number and then she emerges looking like the problem solver extrordinaire because she already has a list of solutions right there. Honestly I’m amazed there aren’t a dozen broken limbs in need of an alternative already, given their hobbies.

  58. Don’t wanna play outside*

    If the CEO is as “snow-forward” as he seems, can the OP suggest activities and alternates that can be done at a ski resort? Someone suggested spa day. Winter resorts also sometimes have sleigh rides or sno-cat outings in the heated cab (with lunch), or marshmallow roasts. Or maybe pub darts. OP could even call a few resorts & ask their corporate activities director for suggestions. That way the OP comes to the table with ideas that are in the wheelhouse and might be better received by the (tone deaf) CEO.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      I was just going to come and add alternative snow activities. My industry organization has a yearly snow day with free rentals and you can downhill ski, cross country ski, snow shoe, tube, lots of easy beginner options. I know it won’t work for people of all disabilities but if you can walk, you can snow shoe.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Bocce, petanque, boules as another low impact low investment suggestion. For the cost of one ski rental for one person for one day, you can get a pretty decent set of balls.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        To be clear, I’m talking about the company buying the balls not the employees. They store very compactly in the bottom of a closet for summer.

  59. Badger*

    I know that some companies incorporate volunteering into their company culture. Maybe suggesting that making one of the days a team volunteer day could work. It would also provide some positive PR opportunities. And you could suggest indoor or accessible activities so you don’t end up running a 5K for charity.

  60. Don’t wanna play outside*

    If the CEO is as “snow-forward” as he seems, can the OP suggest activities and alternates that can be done at a ski resort? Someone suggested spa day. Winter resorts also sometimes have sleigh rides or sno-cat outings in the heated cab (with lunch), or marshmallow roasts. Or maybe pub mom. OP could even call a few resorts & ask their corporate activities director for suggestions. That way the OP comes to the table with ideas that are in the wheelhouse and might be better received by the (tone deaf) CEO.

  61. TWW*

    Feeling like a fish-out-of-water surrounded by people in their natural element is such an intensely uncomfortable feeling for me, as a non-skier, I would not even consider going on a ski trip with coworkers. It sucks that people who opt out are expected to work an 8-hour day, but that would be the lesser of two evils for me.

    1. Batgirl*

      I always really enjoyed having the office to myself on graveyard shifts, but that’s how it was supposed to be, which makes a difference. It also doesn’t solve OP’s facetime problem.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My 2 cents before this thread is deleted. We have been the oblivious default long enough that even the blonde, fair-skinned, blue-eyed me is tired of it and wants things to change. Yes it has become a personality trait. No, it shouldn’t be. It is up to us to change that.

    2. D3*

      More of a mindset than personality trait. And it’s real and it can be a problem. And I say that as a white woman. It scares ME that so many white people won’t acknowledge it.

  62. CommanderBanana*

    Aaaah hahahaha yes, I am familiar with this brand of clueless Caucasity. Our CEO decided he would boost morale by having everyone go on a day-long golf trip….to a golf course that was about a 2 hour bus ride away that would require leaving from our office at 8 am, to a golf course with no other facilities, when we had at least three pumping mothers on our staff. And only one other person in the office was a golfer, who was a, um, similarly complected man.

    *slow clap*

    1. In my shell*

      Oh no. Nope.

      I’m verbally tackled repeatedly each year to volunteer (or to provide volunteers) to stand in the hot sun at a hole on the green all day for two separate “fundraisers” for industry elites. Support volunteering? Check! Be an unwilling, subservient “volunteer” at the 8th hole? Nope. I’ve earned a rep for not being a team player for not “supporting the (faux!) fundraiser”, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay at this point.

      1. D3*

        Did that kind of volunteering once in college that was an alumni association fundraiser. Never been treated so poorly in my life. The best golfers ignored me. The others insulted me, objectified me, groped me, and wiped their muddy hands on me.
        So hell no to “volunteering” to help rich people golf as a freaking fundraiser.

  63. Frances*

    OP I’m sorry you are feeling left out in these events.

    These are just a few thoughts and could be completely off-base so I apologize in advance if it is. Are any of these things something you would ever be interested in trying were cost (especially now with a baby- congratulations by the way) not an issue? It sounds like the folks you work with are not penalizing you for not participating, which is good. Do they have a debrief the day after to talk about the team building where you can be involved?

    Unfortunately outdoor activities like the ones you describe have historically been enjoyed mainly by white people. There are lots of groups, such as Black Girls Do Bike and Brown Folks Fishing, that are trying to normalize POC doing outdoor activities (check out the movie Black Ice – it’s great). Your participation in some of the activities could help with changing mindsets about what sports are for whom. It is possible that that you might actually like some of the activities though there may be activities you might hate and decide not to try them again. I guess what I’m asking is, since part of team building is getting outside of one’s comfort zone, have you or would you be willing to try one of the activities a year?

    1. OyHiOh*

      It would be very difficult for the OP to participate in a team bonding activity if she’s over on the bunny hill trying out downhill skiing for the first time, while her peers are skiing double black diamonds.

      I mean, I’m no skier myself, but I do know the difference between a learning hill and a double black diamond!

      1. Frances*

        I agree with your point in some part however this assumes her peers wouldn’t go on a few bunny runs with the OP. In my experience, people get really excited when others learn something that is their passion. They are happy to help out and/or encourage. Then there are the bonding conversations on the way back home or the next day in the office. “Hey we got really lucky with that hero snow. Didn’t we? What was your favorite part?” or “Oh wow that ice climbing was cool but definitely not for me. I think I’ll stick with soft snow. You did great though. How do you keep so calm?”
        To each their own and the OP knows what they can and can’t handle so I’ll leave that to them. I just wanted to ask if it would even be something they could try or have tried. From the letter it didn’t sound like they did. It would be a shame to self-select out on something that might be surprisingly fun.

    2. Deborah*

      They are totally penalizing her. She’s working 4 extra days a year. If they gave her the day off and cash for the cost of a lift ticket, THAT would be keeping things on the level -= and even then she’s been excluded from the “team building”.

  64. RC Rascal*

    Here is an idea: Is it possible for you to organize an alternative event for people who can’t or don’t want to do those things? Maybe something outdoors but safer, and that can be done without all the expensive equipment? Hiking? Fishing? A guided tour of the local flora and fauna with a naturalist?

    I agree the sport selection is elitist/classist. It’s also a regional thing. I am from a square state and don’t do any of those things, because they aren’t available locally. Also; I have a history of back injury. I am fine as long as I am careful but I’m not about to go out and put myself at risk. Skiing is dangerous, and ice climbing???? Sounds very dangerous.

    Reminds me of this from the 1980s. I don’t want to derail the thread on white water rafting but it is a reminder of what can happen when outdoor trips go very wrong: Here, 5 very senior marketing and advertising professionals were killed on a trip:,1980%20campaign%2C%20and%20Robert%20V.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “Square state” made me chuckle, because I have friends who just moved to Colorado. Four right angles corners oh, but it sure has skiing.

  65. In my shell*

    This CEO has severe tunnel vision about privilege and other human beings in general.

    I wonder if OP (and others may choose to!) could attend, but socialize and/or read or whatever in the lodge and share what I assume is a team meal mid-day? It would be a day to do what OP wants (albeit at the lodge) and still be included without trading every bit of relationship capital raising the issue that is unlikely to change.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP says that’s been her default but the option is not available during the pandemic.

  66. c_g2*

    I’m sorry OP. I just don’t see this changing. As a minority woman (queer) I’ve been in positions of being the “not fun one” for asking the group to do different activities. Since I would be the only one or the one of two or maybe even three it became a thing about my identity and not seen as valid. I find what might work is suggesting activities preemptively that might be fun but less demanding. Maybe kayaking, hiking, or such though those are still demanding. Try framing it as a “oh I’d love to do this w/ the team!” it might help. Otherwise, if there are happy hours you can deal with i’d suggest going to them. Engage with your team members and try to find something in common.

    Again, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this OP. Goodluck.

  67. Kara S*

    I know some people have suggested this above but I’m another vote in support of planning the event at least partially yourself and bringing it to the CEO. I think it will be easier to say “I feel left out when we do X, here’s an alternative” than just saying “I don’t like doing X”. Maybe a lower intensity sport like laser tag or bowling could be suggested. Obviously those aren’t great for COVID but they could work in a post-COVID world.

    I don’t think you need to bring the cost up because the cost isn’t the only issue and that could potentially turn into something the CEO works to solve (ex “I’ll pay for all your gear!” or “I’ll pay for you to take lessons!”). Focus instead on wanting to do something calmer as an option for current and future employees who aren’t as in to extreme sports and mention that it doesn’t feel like team building if one person is unable or disinterested in every team building activity chosen. If they push for you to learn or just come anyways, you can say that you don’t mind doing that occasionally but it’s harder when it’s every single activity.

    For now if you can’t think of a suggestion that works for you and in a COVID world, I would just say that due to just having had a baby you can’t do the activities but you’d like to take a day off rather than working. If they say no, you can say that normally you love going and sitting in the lodge or drinking hot chocolate but since that isn’t an option, you’d feel like you’re being given a bad deal just because you’re recovering from having had a baby.

    Good luck! Ice climbing and all that sounds cool but I can’t imagine doing it four times a year with coworkers.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      These are really extreme sports: mountaineering, and ice climbing
      Somewhat more mainstream: skiing, sailing (unless you sail often, most non-regular sailors will get seasick)

      Perhaps it’s wiser to pick a less extreme variation. Instead of “sailing” how about a nice dinner cruise? Instead of ice climbing how about a summer X or Y retreat that would be less intense (IDK maybe glamping/camping, beach bonfire, etc.). Personally, ice climbing sounds like a frozen hell to me!

      1. Kara S*

        That’s a good point! I mentioned above that cross country skiing and snowshoeing might be good alternatives too. Still outdoors, still winter-y, but with considerably less equipment and previous experienced required to have fun or do well. Also way less dangerous and way less physically demanding.

        1. Another workerbee*

          Ha ha, I lasted one mile of snowshoeing and couldn’t walk the next day, and I run daily.

  68. Bookworm*

    I am sympathetic to you, OP. I am part of an organization that had somewhat similar outings (we grew quite a bit in terms of people employed so it became difficult to schedule and then the pandemic hit) and love Alison’s response. And so of course would highlight the caveat–especially since if you are the only one who feels this way (AND as the only BIPOC AND the only poor person) this could end up making you a target. Maybe not intentionally (“aw, OP is such a spoilsport, I liked skiing”) but I’m sure you’re aware of that already. : [

    Do hope it works out for you and the people in charge are willing to listen.

    1. Quill*

      When I worked in a lab of 5, the company christmas party was instrumental to me hating it there. My boss knew, theoretically, that I had chronic pain (I’d fielded a lot of questions about why I did lab technique differently, taken a day off because I’d been on my feet too long, etc,) but I stepped wrong in bowling shoes, rolled my ankle, and was in pain for another three hours of trying to excuse myself and go home and being told I was a bad sport.

      Prior to the party – which I’d done all the legwork for in making reservations! – I was the shiny employee who had Innovative Ideas. Routine mistakes were not a big deal, they’re bound to happen eventually, you have a lot of other skills etc. After the party? When I spent three hours limping around a Pinstripes’ with a fake smile because I felt like someone had put one ice pick through my foot and another through the back of my neck? The boss / CEO / Owner decided I was the company scapegoat because I wasn’t properly grateful to him for all the fun ‘we’ were having.

      That said, OP – my workplace was full of evil bees from the start. Yours doesn’t sound like it is. Best of luck getting them to realize that as the group gets bigger, they’ve gotta start planning activities that are applicable to more people.

  69. nuqotw*

    Good lord, does the company’s liability insurance cover skiing injuries incurred on company time? I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

  70. DJ*

    At my work we are having a restructure involving job losses. Yet the branch my permanent position is in is insisting on a team planning day before staff who will lost their jobs go. As I’m in one of the most junior positions, have been pigeon holed into admin as there was no one else to do it, am mature aged and now my work and position has been abolished (we’ve all got to express interest in a job pool so I may pick something else up) the last thing I want to do is do “planning” when I may be unemployed and not working in this branch in a few months time. I can image the snide comments I’ll be expected to put up with.
    Leave the planning day until after the new structure has started and the poor staff that have lost their jobs can gone.

  71. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    These activities are certainly elitist. I’m white and I have never done any of them. But wouldn’t it be better to simply suggest that one outing be less athletic? I think a museum or garden tour, or a wine tasting, sounds lovely. However, I have been a nursing mother and I probably couldn’t do any group activity for the duration of the nursing.

  72. jonquil*

    Oh boy, the BANANAS optics of the one BIPOC team member back at her desk, breast pump in hand, while Team Moncler frolics on the slopes.
    OP, I am also in the PNW, and I am exhausted and sad just thinking about the unexamined racism and unquestioned assumptions and unintentional but impactful exclusion you may be experiencing at this firm, and the reality that change for the better might probably come at risk to yourself.
    I would really suggest you not go this alone, if at all possible. It sounds like you work with do-gooders, and I bet you’re good at reading your coworkers. Consider finding the coworker with some clout whose better angels could be convinced to crusade with you for a more equitable workplace.
    And if there were times when things happened at this job that felt weird but you wondered if it was just you? It wasn’t you. It was them.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Yes, ths articulates my thoughts as well. Bringing this up may well come at a cost to the OP with both the CEO and her coworkers.

  73. Rachel in NYC*

    OP, my office actually had this discussion one year (we were going indoor rock climbing) so we added- on the same day (after rock climbing), going to play shuffleboard.

    You could work until shuffleboard or hang out and watch the rock climbing, while making snide comments about how badly we were all doing. (We are not the most athletic group.)

    If our office, the over 60 group was the one who called nope on rock climbing only but we had a variety of people who couldn’t participate or who weren’t sure about it so were happy that shuffleboard got added. (and yes, it turns out that (1) shuffleboard is hard and (2) it’s hilarious.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I must admit that this American has always wanted to try curling, and distance skating on canals.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I love watching curling. It is the one Olympic sport that I can pretend to myself that I could play at that level, if I decided that this is what I wanted to do and really buckled down.

  74. Isabelle*

    I wouldn’t bother bringing it up. They KNOW that they are excluding OP and quite frankly I would ask myself whether that was intentional (4 events a year that OP never attends and nobody is asking questions??).

    I would love to see the company’s handbook blurb on diversity and inclusion.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      On the other hand though, the OP says they are “genuinely smart, kind, and thoughtful people who want to do good, and I have loved it here for the most part”

      If that’s really true, the CEO should be glad to mix things up. Sometimes us straight, white, male, able, etc are extremely slow on the uptake

      1. Lana Kane*

        The worry is that some people *seem* kind and thoughtful – until you point out how something they’re doing that isn’t, so much. And then you see the true colors.

        This is for OP to consider, because 1) she works there and has a more nuanced view of her coworkers than we do, and 2) being BIPOC, she likely already has a suspicion of whether they would actually be kind and toughtful when presented with an issue that might make them feel defensive.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Totally agree, and that was what I meant – OP has been there five years now so I was assuming she could judge at this point.

    2. TWW*

      OP: “These ski trips make employees like me feel marginalized.”

      Management: “Yes, that’s the point.”

    3. Analyst Editor*

      It’s funny because if you ask someone who does a privileged thing, like skiing, “how can I make this inclusive” their first idea would be to, you know, try to include people in it.
      Paying for someone to do something they like who wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise sounds like a way to get people to do it who otherwise couldn’t?. If someone doesn’t want to that’s on them?

  75. employment lawyah*

    Complaining about it is justified but nonetheless risks seeming whiny. Also you’re presenting someone with a problem (“find something else!”) and not a solution which can be tricky.

    Best bet is to try to come up with alternatives yourself–this can be really hard though, so if you have a friendly contact in HR you might resort to low-key “I don’t wan to complain but FYI…”

  76. Another British poster*

    Agree that it’s about offering a wide range of activities.

    Something that pops up from time to time in the AAM comment section, which I find problematic, is co-opting legitimate cases of discrimination against protected classes with the “but not everyone can eat sandwiches” mentality.

    Just because one person can’t or prefers not to do something, doesn’t make it discriminatory. And we can invent wild hypotheticals to explain why a person would reject literally every activity on earth. Sometimes it feels like it’s almost a game on AAM to take a perfectly normal thing and invent a way it might potentially exclude a hypothetical individual, and that can sometimes feel dismissive of genuine discrimination and exclusion.

    There’s clearly a huge difference between “extreme sporting activities at work discriminates against disabled people” and “afternoon tea discriminates against – wait – okay what if an employee had once like had their parents murdered by being lured into a scone factory and shoved into an industrial vat of jam and DROWNED IN JAM and their kid had PTSD whenever they looked at jam. Ergo afternoon tea discriminates against this entirely hypothetical person I just made up.”

    (That’s actually far milder than some of the extreme hypotheticals I’ve actually read on AAM, eg making employees wash their hands is disability discrimination because there’s a dozen people on the planet with an extremely rare auto immune disease who can’t touch water. Banning fish from office microwaves is racist since it discriminates against First Nation subsistence fishers living in remote tribal villages in the Arctic Circle who have no other way to get food other than by fishing. I mean…!!!)

  77. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    OP, if they do another ski trip and you’re in the office working like Cinderella, please put on the Audible version of Ruth Ware’s One by One and enjoy.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Came here to suggest just that! I read it in 2 days. Ruth Ware – ruining rich-people vacations for me one book at a time.

  78. DJ*

    I think a variety of activities would be the way to go. Ie a games team building day in a close by venue.
    Does this activity require overnight stays? That must be an issue for carers

  79. Black Horse Dancing*

    OP, one thing I haven’t seen suggested that is a big resurgence for team building right now is Dungeons and Dragons. Experiences DMs are hired to lead teams through a pre-made campaign. It’s gotten popular so that DMs can actually charge to do this.

    1. Self Employed*

      A friend of mine (in the Before Times) was making a good living leading group fiber art installations as team-building + corporate art. She would design a project to be crocheted or woven or whatever and people would make different parts of it that would be assembled into a giant hanging piece of art for the building.

  80. r*

    Oof, tough situation OP. Just wanna say you’re right that it’s not inclusive & shitty they do the same stuff every time – especially when it leaves the only worker of color out. You’d think someone would look at the group dynamics and grow a clue that something’s messed up!

    I guess it all comes down to reading the dynamics and maybe thinking of any of your co-workers who might be potential allies in pursuing different activities. It’s a bit of a different situation, but one of my old jobs had very stringent dress codes for women, which I would be violating bc I’m butch. Having more feminine-presenting employees raise concerns with me and run a bit of interference was really helpful irt actually changing things & shielding everyone from blowback. Otoh, stinks to feel unsure whether you can raise valid concerns on your own & be heard.

    Anyway, you have my sympathies.

  81. Climber*

    In what world is ICE CLIMBING remotely appropriate for work?! Ice climbing is incredibly dangerous even if you’re an expert. It is way, way more dangerous than rock climbing (which in of itself is not risk-free!)

    This is like pressuring your employees to learn to snake charm cobras together. Even sky diving is way, way safer than ice climbing!

    There is no way a company that thinks this is remotely appropriate is sane and cares about their employees. This is so crazy I don’t even know what to say.

  82. Trilby*

    Yes, you ARE being a killjoy. Why do you want to make it all about you and take away so much fun from the rest of your coworkers? Suck it up and enjoy a day in the mountain lodge. Bring a book, wear a cozy sweater, and enjoy the hot chocolate. Seriously – deal with it and don’t wreck it for the rest of your coworkers. You’re being really selfish.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      You’re ignoring or forgetting both that the OP is pumping breast milk for an infant, and that there’s a freaking pandemic. Both of those things make “sit quietly in the ski lodge sipping hot chocolate” decidedly less appealing.

      But no, she’s being a “killjoy” and “making it all about her” because she has the audacity to want to be included in team-building that the company thinks is important enough to have four times a year. She should “suck it up” and risk her life and health so the rest of the company can pretend they aren’t excluding her. Do you really think it’s unreasonable for her to mind being asked to work a normal day at the office, while everyone else gets paid to do something they enjoy.

      If her coworkers are really that fond of skiing double black diamonds, do they really need the company team-building trip to get them out on the slopes?

    2. Roci*

      “Yeah, OP! Screw you for wanting to feel included on this company team-building trip! What kind of selfish weirdo can’t go ice climbing and afford skiing 4 times a year??”

      That’s certainly a take.

    3. aebhel*

      “It’s very selfish to want team-building activities to be accessible to everyone on the team!” is uh… certainly a take.

  83. JxB1000*

    I don’t see where race or economics comes into it, because the company is footing the bill and there’s usually space/tutoring for beginners in an organized sport like these. Seems like it’s more about those who enjoy intense physical activities and those who don’t.

    Perhaps thinking about it from the other side: this is a very small company – which probably started as an even smaller group. Does the CEO know that you – or anyone – objects? If it’s historically been part of the company culture that the members ENJOY these activities and willingly participate, then I don’t think any of us can judge the CEO until someone speaks up. If multiple people don’t want to participate, then what? But what if the OP is the only person? What should happen?

    With a previous company, our outings were golf -which I find incredibly boring. I still went, hung around for refreshments, drove the golf cart part of the time. I didn’t get the full impact of the buddy-buddy stuff, but I was still present. With friends, I’m the only non-skier so I enjoy a hot chocolate by the fire, check out the local town, hit the hot tub, and spend meals and evening with the group.

    In my current job, we have few outints. But there is a rare employee picnic, maybe a holiday dinner. Those who choose not to attend are expected to work their normal hours. Neither is an afternoon “off”, it’s an afternoon to participate in a company-wide event.

    So I think it boils down to expressing your thoughts that perhaps one or more events could be some other type and finding a way to participate as best you can in those that are organized. Or, bypass it and work.

    1. Boof*

      Re: economics – it depends a LOT on what is covered and what setup / gear OP already has. I would hope ski rentals etc would be covered, but it’s possible CEO is assuming everyone already has bought their own gear and didn’t include that. Also, ski jackets, gloves, etc – now if they are already in snow country though I think it’s safe to assume folks have snow gear, but that’s the main stuff that can’t reasonably be rented. And that is assuming this is just a day trip during work hours, not a long weekend trip – in which case OP might have to pay for childcare while away*
      *I am in full support of breastfeeding (when mom wants to and can), which is generally much easier to do directly with baby — pumping/storing/etc is much less satisfying and efficient all around, too.

  84. scmill*

    I worked for someone who wanted to sign us up for Outward Bound as our team building event. I just gave her a look and told her I was an old, out of shape woman who was not going to hang off a mountain under any circumstances and that she was just going to have to think of something else. Otherwise I was staying home. Instead, we went to a mountain resort where we could do more normal team building activities, just outside in the fresh air. We had free time set up so that the hikers, handball, tennis people could enjoy things they liked while the rest of us read, went to the spa, strolled around the property etc A win-win!

  85. Let's Not Name Names*

    As someone from a working class background, first generation college grad, having worked in the ultra privileged sector of art galleries, I’ll just express my solidarity for your situation, OP. Thinking of all the meetings I sat through that got sidetracked as people sat around making plans to see each other over the weekend at their Hamptons houses or watching people be praised for the “excellent work” of traveling to ultra-exclusive vacation destinations with other rich people. Of course, the same place that tried to promote me to director without a raise. Yeah.

  86. Jessica Fletcher*

    It’s appalling they haven’t offered to let you take off this year without having to work, since you need to feed your baby! Even if you did want to go, this instance feels like being punished for caring for your infant!

  87. Analyst Editor*

    LW, if you just returned from maternity leave you’re probably sleep-deprived, and mood all over the place. If you’re plugged into social media and politics getting riled up to boot (which I did during nights feeding while on my maternity leaves — bad idea!!!) Things that are even mildly annoying will be amplified many times over. Especially if you are a priori looking at it with a political lens.

    I’d say advocate for a different activity based on what you think would be fun, or if you don’t like anything then don’t say anything and don’t participate. The best way to make sure they’re are no nice things at all is to complain about the nice things there are.

    1. Foxgloves*

      I don’t think this is fair- this would be really irritating even to people who AREN’T just back from maternity leave, and it looks like OP found this to be the case even prior to becoming a parent. “Not participating” isn’t a reasonable alternative (it’s meant to be team building! OP should be able to participate in team building!) and this isn’t a “nice thing” when it’s exclusionary.

  88. Lawyer But Not That Kind of Lawyer*

    I am a Canadian lawyer, but I work in international law. Could you raise the issue as being one of potential liability to the employer if someone gets injured while technically at work on one of these days? The person would be entitled to worker’s compensation, and possibly more depending on the injury. Depending on the laws of your region, I don’t think a signed waiver would be sufficient to protect the employer.

  89. Foxgloves*

    I think pointing out that it isn’t team building if people aren’t actually spending time together could be a valid way to go. If you are a beginner and off doing the basic pistes/ routes/ whatever, and everyone else is very experienced and doing things at that level, then the team actually AREN’T spending time together and it defeats the purposes of team building. That might be an extra point to raise as a reason to try something different?

  90. Meridian Swift*

    You could try putting the focus on new experiences, such as “I have an idea, how about we team build by volunteering at our local xyz organization?” If you reach out to a volunteer manager in your community, they can help you plan a one-day event (I’ve done it-it’s doable) that would not only help build team morale, but would build connection in your community and offer some good will points to your firm and actually help the people in your area. If you do a little leg-work up front, this may just fly and your workmates might feel good in a whole new way after the experience.

  91. CanCan*

    They could do golfing – that’s an outdoor activity that could be kind of elitist, but doesn’t have to be. Some could play for the competition, and others could just enjoy walking around and trying to hit the ball. As long as they provide the clubs and the balls, no gear is required.
    I’ve only golfed twice – both times organized by an employer, and it was all right, – better than sitting at the office. No skill necessary (you won’t win, but you’ll play with everyone anyway – as opposed to with skiing). No special clothes (sneakers / flat shoes and maybe sunscreen).
    As long as you’re ok walking and standing for a fair period of time. If not, the employer should rent a cart as well.

    1. ThePriceisWrongBob*

      So where on the back nine does someone wash up, privately pump breast milk, and store it safely? Also many golf courses do in fact have dress codes and parsing them is definitely a class thing. Frankly the last thing I would want to do if I am on a pumping schedule is figure out working in 18 holes. Add in that the OP is not white and is a woman, people who have been historically excluded from golf facilities up until the 1990s…it’s not great.

  92. Hosta*

    I’m in Seattle. I’m a walking PNW cliche. I ski. I kayak. I hike. But I always feel bad when those things are proposed as teambuilding unless there’s other options. Because it isn’t team building if the whole team can’t participate.

    Some ideas from a Seattleite that are doable right now.

    – The Zoo, it is outdoors and kid friendly. Our company did our summer picnic there two years ago and seeing everyone’s kiddos was awesome.
    – The marsh walk in the arboretum is great, although a bit soggy right now. Or the Japanese garden.
    – Cooking classes for teams are all over but I’ve never managed to convince my group to do them.
    – Crafty things (making terrariums has been reliably popular with my current group)
    – Improv (still one of the best offsite fun activities I’ve done)

    We’ve done some successful virtual team building during Covid too.
    – Legos and snacks. Everyone got the same kit and we built them together virtually. Really fun for my nerdy group of women.
    – Storytelling or improv workshop virtually, not as cool as in person but it works
    – Trivia
    – Powerpoint Karaoke. I hate it, but my team loves it.

    A lot of places that do traditional team building have switched to virtual. Like cooking classes where they mail you the stuff and then everyone logs in at the same time while the instructor teaches.

    But my favorite team building was a really low budget event. The team lead just interviewed all of us with the same questions. Things like “If you weren’t doing what would you do instead?”, “Where’s your favorite place in the world?”, and “What’s one thing you’ve always want to learn to do but haven’t had time?” It sounds simple, but right now it was really great to just hear my co-workers talk about normal stuff.

  93. Nana*

    Discussions like this remind me of a (former) Pointy-Haired Boss who planned an afternoon at a nearby park, thinking that we’d all bring sports equipment and do various activities that we liked.
    TWO people had to point out to him that he couldn’t make variously-able-bodied people spent three or four hours at a place with no toilets.

  94. A girl has no name*

    I am also a Pacific NW resident, born and raised. This is the kind of ableist, white-privilege gatekeeping bullcrud that is absolutely rampant here and just needs to stop. There have been decades and centuries of this attitude that everyone is white* and a mountain-man or frontiersman**, and if you don’t fit that mold, you are somehow lacking. And then the Sierra Club wonders why their Portland chapter has an all-white staff.
    *because of Black and Chinese exclusion and anti-miscegenation laws on the books until the late 20th century.
    ** For a fatal example of this toxic attitude, see the 1986 Mount Hood Disaster in which seven students and two teachers died on the mountain.

  95. Jenny D*

    Some years back, my company had an all expenses paid event in another country. One of the planned activities was whitewater rafting – as far as I understand these things, it was safe and had lots of guides/handlers helping out etc. Only, it was supposed to last for four hours.

    I was on my period. There literally did not exist any tampon or mooncup that would last for four hours without leaking. And since we were expected to wear wetsuits, my usual stratagem of using a towel/pad in addition to tampon/mooncup was unworkable.

    They ended up letting the bus that was bringing everyone to the rafting place drop me and two other coworkers off at a nearby medieval village, so we could stroll around and look at the village and sit down for coffee as much as needed. But I had to argue about it – the vice CEO had the brilliant idea that I could just stay in the bus for four hours instead. Fortunately, the CEO is sensible and made sure there was a better option. And they’ve never done anything this exclusionary since.

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